A white former police officer was acquitted Friday in the 2011 death of a black man who was fatally shot following a high-speed chase, with the judge declaring that he would not be swayed by “partisan interests, public clamor or fear of criticism.”
The acquittal of Jason Stockley in the death of Anthony Lamar Smith had stirred concerns about possible civil unrest for weeks. Several hundred protesters were marching in the streets of downtown St. Louis within hours of the verdict, but only a single arrest had been reported as of midday.
The case played out not far from the suburb of Ferguson, which was the scene of the 2014 fatal shooting of Michael Brown, the unarmed black 18-year-old who was killed by a white police officer. That officer was never charged but eventually resigned.
Stockley, who was charged with first-degree murder, insisted he saw Smith holding a gun and felt he was in imminent danger. Prosecutors said the officer planted a gun in Smith’s car after the shooting. The officer asked the case to be decided by a judge instead of a jury.
“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 the decision .
St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner said she was disappointed.
“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 Stockley intended to kill Smith, Gardner…
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