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LIVE UPDATES: Ex-cop Jason Stockley found not guilty in shooting death of Anthony Lamar Smith

Ex-cop Jason Stockley found not guilty in black man's death

Jason Stockley/Ex-St. Louis police officer
Jason Stockley/Ex-St. Louis police officer

ST. LOUIS – UPDATE: A St. Louis judge on Friday found former police officer Jason Stockley not guilty of first-degree murder in the 2011 shooting death of black motorist Anthony Lamar Smith.

"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," St. Louis Circuit Judge Timothy Wilson wrote in his ruling.

St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kimberly Gardner said she was "disappointed" with the judge's decision.
Stockley, then a St. Louis officer, shot dead Anthony Lamar Smith, 24, after a police chase in December 2011.

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THE SHOOTING

Stockley and his partner saw what appeared to be a drug transaction in the parking lot of a fast-food restaurant on Dec. 20, 2011. As the officers sought to corner Smith, he drove away. Stockley’s defense attorney, Neil Bruntrager, said the officers were nearly run over. Stockley fired at the fleeing car, then a car chase began.

Police dashcam video captured Stockley saying, “going to kill this (expletive), don’t you know it,” in the midst of the chase. As Smith’s car slowed, Stockley told his partner to slam the police SUV into it, and his partner did so. Stockley then got out of the SUV and fired five shots into Smith’s car, killing him.

Bruntrager said Stockley fired only after Smith refused commands to put up his hands and reached along the seat toward an area where a gun was found. But prosecutors said Stockley planted the gun. Testing found Stockley’s DNA on the gun, but not Smith’s.

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DIFFERENT PASTS

Stockley, now 36, graduated from a Catholic high school in nearby Belleville, Illinois, then went to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. After graduation, he served in Iraq, where he was injured and awarded the Army Bronze Star. Stockley joined the St. Louis Police Department in 2007. He resigned in 2013, about two years after the shooting, and moved to Houston.

Smith, 24, was the father of a 1-year-old daughter when he died. His family has not disclosed much about him. Court records show he had a criminal record that included convictions for unlawful possession of a firearm and drug distribution. At the time of the shooting, he was on probation for a stealing charge related to a crime in Ferguson in 2010. In 2013, the St. Louis Board of Police Commissioners reached a $900,000 settlement with Smith’s family, ending a wrongful-death lawsuit filed on behalf of Smith’s daughter.

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NEW EVIDENCE

The circuit attorney’s office initially decided not to charge Stockley, but police internal affairs brought new evidence in March 2016. Then-Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce announced in May 2016 that Stockley was charged with first-degree murder.

The new evidence wasn’t disclosed, but the St. Louis Post-Dispatch obtained the dashboard camera video and published it soon after charges were announced. The footage showing Stockley’s threat led to increased anger from activists.

Prosecutors opted not to pursue the death penalty. Stockley chose to have the case decided by a judge, rather than a jury. The judge agreed over the objections of prosecutors.

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RACIALLY CHARGED ISSUE

Police and courts in the St. Louis area have been under scrutiny since the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown in nearby Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014. Brown, who was black and unarmed, was fatally shot by white officer Darren Wilson after a street skirmish. Weeks of often-violent protests followed, and violence was renewed that November after a St. Louis County grand jury declined to indict Wilson. He resigned that month.

Since then, several black suspects have been fatally shot by police in St. Louis. Stockley is the only St. Louis police officer charged with murder in recent years.


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