By Staff –
A former St. Louis police officer was cleared of first-degree murder charges in the shooting death of a black man on Friday, in another case among many in which white police officers have been acquitted of killing black men recently.
A judge found former officer Jason Stockley “not guilty” of killing 24-year-old Anthony Lamar Smith, after Smith led officers on a high-speed chase in 2011.
Stockley and his partner claimed they’d attempted to corner Smith in a parking lot, after witnessing a drug deal.
According to Stockley, he saw Smith holding a gun, and felt he was in danger, however prosecutors said Stockley instead planted the gun in Smith’s vehicle after shooting him five times.
Police dashcam video captured Stockley stating he was “going to kill this (expletive), don’t you know it,” prior to the shooting, and also showed the officer go to his police car and dig through a bag before returning to Smith’s vehicle after the shooting, leading prosecutors to believe he’d planted the gun.
The gun had only Stockley’s DNA on it, and none of Smith’s.
Stockley opted to have his case heard in front of a judge instead of a jury, and St. Louis Circuit Judge Timothy Wilson wrote in his ruling Friday, “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.”
Prosecutors said they are disappointed with the ruling, and government officials have also called for calm in the wake of recent protests that have erupted in response to the verdict.
The fatal police shooting of Michael Brown, another officer-involved shooting of a black man that made national headlines, took place in nearby Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014.
Stockley left the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department in August 2013, and the St. Louis police board settled a wrongful death suit with Smith’s survivors for $900,000, following his departure.
Stockley’s partner was never charged with a crime.