A St. Louis, Missouri judge has found a white former police officer not guilty of murdering a black man after a high-speed chase in 2011, in a closely watched case that comes amid continuing racial tensions in the US.
Circuit Judge Timothy Wilson said prosecutors had failed to prove “every element of murder beyond a reasonable doubt” or to show persuasively that defendant Jason Stockley had not acted in self-defense when he shot and killed suspected drug dealer Anthony Lamar Smith.
The case has drawn intense attention in St. Louis, where racial tensions have been high since the 2014 killing of a black man in the suburb of Ferguson by a white police officer.
Demonstrators quickly gathered Friday near the courthouse to protest the verdict, though police said they so far had been peaceful. Some people locked arms, chanting “No justice, no peace.”
“I pray for my city, man, because people are tired of this,” Michael Brown told CNN. His son, also Michael Brown, was the man killed in the 2014 Ferguson shooting. The white officer in that case was cleared of wrongdoing.
Police later used tear gas on some demonstrators who damaged public and private property. Twenty-three arrests were made, and 10 officers were hurt, St. Louis police said.
– Gun unseen on tape –
St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson issued a statement Friday saying, “I am appalled at what happened to Anthony Lamar Smith. I am sobered by this outcome.” She urged the people of her midwestern city to come together, adding, “We rise and fall together.”
Stockley, who was a St. Louis police officer in 2011, shot and killed Smith after a high-speed chase that followed a suspected drug deal.
Stockley has said he saw Smith reaching for a silver revolver in his car, but the police dashcam, a witness’s cellphone video and surveillance film from a nearby restaurant do not show the gun, and prosecutors argued that Shockley had planted it.
Judge Wilson, in his 30-page ruling, said he was unconvinced by the suggestion that Stockley had planted the gun.
He added, “The Court observes, based on its nearly 30 years on the bench, that an urban heroin dealer not in possession of a firearm would be an anomaly.”