In 2011, Anthony Lamar Smith, 24, was shot and killed by St. Louis police officer Jason Stockley after a high-speed chase. The incident started when Smith was observed allegedly engaged in an illegal drug transaction. During the attempt to apprehend Smith, the suspect’s car bumped into the police vehicle before speeding off.
A high-speed chase ensued and as Stockley is chasing Smith through the streets, he is heard on police dash cam audio saying “I’m going to kill this mother f—er.” Smith’s car later crashes and Stockley approaches the driver’s side and fires five rounds into Smith, killing the suspect.
Stockley claimed he saw Smith with a gun earlier during the drug deal and felt he was reaching for the weapon when the car crashed and he shot the suspect. During the initial investigation, Stockley claimed he recovered a loaded silver handgun in the vehicle between the center console and passenger’s seat. But police video shows Stockley going back to his police vehicle and placing his AK-47-style pistol into a duffel bag, a weapon which the officer was not authorized to carry. He is then seen going back to Smith’s car and entering the vehicle twice for several moments. Smith’s family says that Stockley planted the handgun that was found at the scene. Tests on the gun show that Stockley’s DNA was the only evidence present on the weapon, drawing doubt that Smith handled the weapon.
Stockley was later charged with murder and this week the trial finally ended with an acquittal. “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 cellphone video by the lay witness, over and over again — innumerable times,” said Circuit Judge Timothy Wilson in explaining his decision.
St. Louis circuit Attorney Kim Gardner issued the following statement to the media after the verdict: “While officer-involved shooting cases are extremely difficult to prevail in court, I believe we offered sufficient evidence that proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Jason Stockley intended to kill Mr. Smith. However, in this case, it was the judge’s duty to evaluate the evidence and deliver his findings. That’s how our system works. I’m very proud of my team’s effort and commitment to the pursuit of justice on behalf of Mr. Smith’s family and the people of St. Louis.
“In light of the verdict, it’s time to take a harder look at how officer-involved shootings are addressed in our city. I understand and appreciate the many challenges that face our city’s police officers. It’s very noble work. However, we need further examination and clarity in the laws that govern the use of deadly force by police officers.”
The city has been on edge over the trial and Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens has placed the Missouri National Guard on standby over concerns of violent protests erupting.