St. Louis, MO (KTRS) Civil unrest has returned to the St. Louis area after a former cop was acquitted of first degree murder in the shooting death of a suspect.
St. Louis Circuit Judge Timothy Wilson announced on Friday morning his decision to acquit former St. Louis Police Officer Jason Stockley of first degree murder in the shooting death of 24-year-old Anthony Lamar Smith. Stockley, 36, fatally shot Smith following a police chase in north St. Louis back in 2011.
“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,” Wilson wrote in his decision.
This ruling came down more than a month after Stockley’s bench trial ended.
The ruling immediately sparked protests in downtown St. Louis, as activists had warned if Stockley was found not guilty. Race is at the center of this civil unrest. The outcry is over Stockley being white a police officer who killed a black suspect, Smith.
Zaki Baruti, a prominent activist during the Ferguson protests, said he was outraged by the ruling, but not surprised.
“You have white police officers shooting black men down, they always exonerate them, so that’s not only reflective of the KKK mentality of many of the police officers in this city as well as this country, it’s also reflective of the judicial system.” Baruti said.
By noon on Friday, about 250 protesters joined in the demonstration and were marching around downtown St. Louis, chanting “No Justice, No Peace.” Or “Shut It Down!”
Mike Brown, Sr., the father of the Ferguson teen killed in a police shooting in 2014 was also there. Brown said this has triggered the pain of losing own son.
“It’s a repeat of what I went through. I’m reliving what this family is going through.” Brown said.
Brown also offered words of encouragement to the family of Anthony Lamar Smith, “I would definitely tell them never give up. Stay in the faith and hopefully something else could change.”
At one point, demonstrators marched up a ramp in an attempt to close Interstate 40/64. They were met by dozens of police officers at the top of the ramp, preventing them from entering the highway. At that point, the protestors turned around and headed back down the ramp.
Police pepper sprayed a few protesters after they tried to block officers.
There were also reports of protesters throwing water bottles and rocks at police lines.
Baruti said there will be more civil unrest. He claims some will be “planned, while others spontaneous. Stay tuned.”