Nationwide marches and protests broke out this past weekend after a Missouri City judge ruled now-former police officer, Jason Stockley, not guilty of first-degree murder for the 2011 shooting death of Black motorist, Anthony Lamar Smith.
On December 20, 2011, Stockley attempted to pull over Smith for a suspected drug transaction. Smith refused to stop resulting in a high-speed chase. During the chase, the police car crashed. Soon after, Stockley proceeded to get out of his vehicle armed with an AK-47, walked up to Smith’s vehicle firing five times at point blank range.
When it came time for the case to go to trial, Stockley pleaded not guilty to the charges, waived his right to jury trial and instead stood before a judge. He claimed he acted in self-defense and believed Smith, 24 was reaching for a weapon in the car.
According to witnesses, Smith did not have a weapon.
However, prosecutors have accused Stockley of justifying the shooting by planting a gun in Smith’s car. To support their claim, prosecutors pointed out Stockley’s DNA was found on the gun, not Smith’s.
“This court, in conscience, cannot say that the state has proven every element of murder beyond a reasonable doubt, or that the state has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant did not act in self-defense,” read the ruling handed down by St. Louis Circuit Judge Timothy Wilson.
The news left community members enraged, disappointed, and confused resulting in numerous people coming out for a peaceful protest on Friday, September 15.
Entertainer and business mogul, Nick Cannon, known for the MTV show, “Wildin Out,” was among the many protesters in St. Louis. Cannon marched wearing a Colin Kaepernick jersey supporting the former 49ers quarterback.
Later that night, things took a turn for worse, as a new crowd of violent protesters emerged and law enforcement was forced to use tear gas to break up the crowd. Since the announcement of the acquittal, St. Louis has experienced two unruly nights of violent protests. Dozens of windows were broken at businesses, objects were thrown at officers, and rocks were thrown at St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson’s home.
Police ordered the crowd to disperse, stating the protest was unlawful but the crowd refused. Hundreds of officers in riot gear moved in with armored vehicles.
Since Stockley’s acquittal, nearly three-dozen people were arrested and 11 police officers were injured, including a broken jaw and dislocated shoulder. According to Associated Press, five officers were taken to hospitals.
As of press time, the Smith family has not released a statement.