St. Louis activists, clergy pledge action if ex-cop cleared of murder
Annie Smith, the mother of Anthony Lamar Smith, enters the courthouse with activist Anthony Shahid for opening statements in the trial of former St. Louis police officer Jason Stockley on Aug. 1. | Robert Cohen / St. Louis Post-Dispatch via AP

ST. LOUIS—Ferguson activists, prominent clergy, and community leaders gathered outside of the 22nd Circuit Court house for an afternoon press conference Aug. 28 demanding justice for Anthony Lamar Smith, 24, who was killed by former St. Louis police officer Jason Stockley in 2011.

“We want justice for our son,” said Annie Smith, Anthony’s mother, with tears in her eyes. “I don’t know why it’s taking so long for a verdict…I just hope justice will be served.”

Around 45 activists crowded the courthouse steps during the press conference calling for Judge Timothy Wilson to rule in favor of the Smith family and convict Stockley.

When asked by the press what justice would look like today, an activist standing with the group replied: “A conviction, that’s what justice would look like today. A life-long prison sentence without the possibility of parole.”

Stockley is charged with first-degree murder and armed criminal action.

The bench trial for Stockely, 36, ended Aug. 9, with Wilson setting an Aug. 18 deadline for the city prosecutor and defense to submit post-trial briefs.

After ten days, Wilson had yet to issue his ruling.

“It’s going to look a lot like Ferguson. It’s gonna be a hundred-plus days, three hundred-plus days of direct action,” Said activist Tory Russel of St. Louis, if Stockley is acquitted.

The fatal 2011 encounter

Stockley and his partner, Officer Brian Bianchi, saw Smith involved in a suspected drug deal in the parking lot of a Church’s Chicken restaurant around 12:30 p.m. that resulted in a mile-long chase through city neighborhoods before ending in a crash.

Police dashboard footage and restaurant video show the officers pulling behind Smith’s rented silver Buick. As the officers got out of their vehicle, Smith backed into the police SUV and sped out of the lot past Stockley, almost knocking a Draco AK-47 pistol from his grasp. The rifle was Stockley’s personal firearm, which the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department has said he was not authorized to carry on duty. Stockley fired several shots from his duty pistol before the chase began.

During the chase, Stockley reported shots fired and gave directions over the police radio. Court records revealed that Stockley also said something about shooting Smith: “Going to kill this [expletive], don’t you know it.”

After ramming into the back of Smith’s car, both officers got out; with Stockley carrying both his AK-47 and service handgun. Stockley fired several shots into the car, then put his rifle back into the police SUV.

Police reports show that Stockley told Internal Affairs investigators and his sergeant, Colin Rumpsa, that he believed that Smith was reaching for a revolver after being ordered to show his hands.

After the shooting, video showed Stockley going to the back seat of the police SUV, digging through a duffel bag, and returning to Smith’s car.

The video shows Stockley then climbing into the driver’s seat after Smith is taken out. Police reports say Stockley’s DNA—not Smith’s—was on the .38 caliber Taurus revolver police said was found in Smith’s Buick.

The trial

In a unique turn of events, Stockley opted for a bench trial rather than a jury trial, which experts say makes sense given the public scrutiny of recent police shootings.

City prosecutors argued that Stockley planted a gun in Smith’s car after he shot him and relied on the DNA and video evidence, emphasizing the dash cam video that recorded Stockley saying he was going to “kill this [expletive], don’t you know it,” and less than a minute later doing just that.

Stockley’s defense attorney, Neil Bruntrager, argued that Stockley “acted within the limits of his authority” and was justified under Missouri law to use deadly force. The law says an officer may shoot if he “reasonably believes the use of force is needed to stop a fleeing felon.” During his testimony, Stockley denied planting the gun, and said he had no recollection of what was said during the chase.

Back on the steps of the courthouse, Rev. Clinton Stancil of the Wayman AME Church, said that St. Louis clergy support activists 100 percent in whatever actions protesters take, depending on the verdict.

“We stand with these activists,” Stancil said. “And we stand behind them, and we support them. Because just like they’re tired, we’re tired. Because we’re clergy and when we wear our collar and our suit and tie, we’re treated with respect (by law enforcement). But when we take off and put on a pair of jeans, we’re treated the same way.”


CONTRIBUTOR

Al Neal
Al Neal

Al Neal is People’s World Bureau Chief in St. Louis, a journalist and photographer covering politics, legal affairs, labor, sports and culture. A member of the Society of Professional Journalists, the National Sports Media Association and the NewsGuild, Neal’s work and reporting has been featured in the Labor-Tribune, Buzzfeed News, Russia Today (RT), Sputnik News Wire, and Getty Images.

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