Arrests, broken windows as protests reignite after ex-cop acquit - FOX5 Vegas - KVVU

Arrests, broken windows as protests reignite after ex-cop acquitted in murder trial

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Anthony Lamar Smith (KMOV) Anthony Lamar Smith (KMOV)
Former St. Louis Police Officer Jason Stockley (Credit: Police) Former St. Louis Police Officer Jason Stockley (Credit: Police)

ST. LOUIS ( – A small group caused widespread damage and threw objects at police Saturday night in St. Louis after a day of peaceful protests.

The weekend has been dominated by large organized protests over the not guilty verdict for Jason Stockley in the 2011 shooting death of Anthony Smith. Saturday's demonstrations were almost entirely peaceful until a small group broke off from the organized march.

After Friday night's violent encounters between police and a small segment of agitators, the prospect of planned protests on Saturday had St. Louis on edge. The day and evening's demonstrations went as planned for both protesters and police by all appearances. But after organizers ended the night's protest march, telling everyone to regroup on Sunday, a small group who remained marched until they encountered riot police.

Tensions escalated quickly as police maneuvered their lines in response to the group of protesters, and eventually began to try to disperse the crowd after objects were thrown at police. Property damage in the area followed soon afterward. Local news station KMOV saw at least nine people arrested.

Windows were broken out of many business fronts, trash cans were overturned in the street and bottles, rocks and other objects were thrown at police.

By around midnight, the crowd had dispersed and a heavy police presence had shrunk to just a few officers.

The background for the protests

A St. Louis judge on Friday acquitted former police officer Jason Stockley in the 2011 shooting death of Anthony Smith. Stockley was charged with first-degree murder.

According to the court document, the state asked if Stockley was found not guilty to consider if he would be guilty of a lesser degree of homicide, not to consider lesser offenses. The document states that “the state did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Stockley did not act in self-defense.”

“This court, as the trier of fact, is simply not firmly convinced of defendant’s guilt. Agonizingly, this court has poured over the evidence again and again. This court has viewed the video evidence from the restaurant’s surveillance camera, the cameras in the police vehicle, and the cell phone video by the lay witness, over and over again – innumerable times.”

Read the court document

Raw video: Surveillance, dash cam video of Stockley shooting investigation

The St. Louis Police Department (STLPD) tweeted Friday afternoon that officers on buses attempting to leave the area were blocked by demonstrators. The tweet also said rocks were being thrown at the buses.

A few minutes later, the STLPD tweeted that agitators were also throwing water bottles at officers. The demonstrators were ordered to disperse.

What happened that day?

On December 20, 2011, Stockley and his partner, Brian Bianchi, tried to stop Smith after witnessing a suspected drug transaction in a restaurant parking lot, according to a police department report obtained by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Bianchi told him Smith was reaching for a weapon, the report said. Stockley exited the police SUV carrying his department-issued handgun along with his personal AK-47 pistol. It was against department policy to carry the latter.

Smith tried to speed away, knocking Stockley sideways, and the officer fired several shots at the vehicle, saying he feared for his life and the safety of others, the report said.

Stockley and Bianchi pursued Smith and at some point, the police vehicle crashed into Smith's Buick, the report said.

With Bianchi at the wheel, the officers chased Smith at speeds of more than 80 mph before the crash, according to the criminal complaint.

Smith was alive after the crash when the officers approached his car with their weapons drawn. In the internal report, Stockley said he ordered Smith to show his hands, and believed the suspect was reaching for a handgun between the center console and the passenger seat.

After he fired, striking Smith in the chest, Stockley returned to the police SUV to retrieve materials to render first aid, but when he came back it was too late.

Stockley entered Smith's car "to locate the weapon and render it safe," and removed the ammunition from the silver revolver, he said in the report.

Forensic analysis revealed that Stockley's was the only DNA present on the gun he said belonged to Smith, the criminal complaint said.

Stockley's partner wasn't charged.

A community 'on edge'

The highly anticipated verdict caused for preparations to be made outside of the courthouse. Barricades were seen outside of the Carnahan Courthouse earlier in the month after activists warned of mass disruption if no conviction was given.

On September 5, St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson released a video in which she said the community was ‘on edge’ ahead of the verdict. She also said she is aware there is a lot of anxiety and worry in the community but that people should not let that determine how they treat one another.

“Ask ourselves how we might feel if it were our son, daughter, mother, father, or friend at the center of this legal decision. Ask ourselves if we can turn this anxiety and distrust into something constructive,” the mayor said.

A day before the verdict was released, Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens took steps to place the Missouri National Guard on standby. St. Louis City and County police also said they were beginning 12-hour shifts Friday morning.

Stockley was the first on-duty officer to be charged in a shooting case since 2000. He previously waived his right to a jury trial.

The trial

During the trial, which began with opening statements on August 1, the prosecution argued that Stockley intended to kill, fired a “kill shot” and planted a gun following the fatal shooting. An FBI expert testified that one shot was fired at Smith from less than six inches away.

“The Court finds the State’s contention there was a fifth ‘kill shot’ fired by Stockley after a gap in time, is not supported by the evidence. No witness testified to hearing a shot separated in time from the first group of successive shots,” read the court document regarding the prosecution’s argument. “Antonio French, a witness for the state, testified that the gun shots were in rapid succession and that one shot was not separated in time from the other shots.”

In regards to a gun being planted, the court stated the State’s contention was not supported by the evidence.

“The gun was a full size revolver and not a small gun, such as a derringer, that can fit in the palm of one’s hand or into the side pocket on a pair of pants without being obvious,” read the court document. “Stockley was not wearing a jacket; if he had such a gun in his possession it would have been visible on the cell phone video. The gun was too large to fit entirely within any of the pockets on the pants he was wearing, there was no bulge in any pocket indicating a gun within the pocket, and the gun would have been visible if it was tucked into his belt.”

Some of the questioning at the trial focused on a portion of cell phone video where Stockley was seen taking off his gloves. Police officers who testified during the trial said they wouldn’t take off gloves if they were about to handle evidence.

The court document states: “Stockley’s explanation for removing the gloves is plausible, other officers at the scene either did not have winter gloves or had removed them prior to exiting their vehicles, and it makes sense that a person would remove gloves when searching inside his personal bag.”  

The dash camera video starts at a local fast food place. Stockley is seen with his personal AK-47, which is against department policy to have. He’s also seen taking shots at Smith’s car with his duty weapon.

The dash camera also shows Stockley rifling through a bag in the back of the police car, but his body blocks what he retrieves. The defense argued he was going to retrieve a medical pad in order the render aid. An officer during the trial stated that no one attempted to render aid to Smith at the scene.

The defense argued that Smith created the violent encounter and fled from Stockley and his partner. They also claimed a gun was not planted and that Stockley acted in self-defense and reasonably.

Stockley took the stand in his own defense during the trial. When he took the stand, he stated he was carrying his personal AK-47 because he valued his life and other people’s lives over the department policy that states personal weapons cannot be carried.

According to the court document, there was no evidence that Stockley fired his personal weapon. The court found that the possession of the gun might be a matter for departmental discipline but was not relevant to the criminal charges.

The trial concluded with closing statements on August 9, with the judge stating it would be days or weeks before a verdict was reached.

“No one promised a rose garden, and this surely is not one. Missouri law requires that the trier of fact by ‘firmly convinced’ of the defendant’s guilt in order to convict,” read a portion of the court document. “The burden on the State to prove a criminal defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt applies to every criminal defendant. The requirement that the State meet its burden of proof is not a mere ‘technicality’ and the instant case is not decided on a technicality.”

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