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White cop acquitted in death of a black man, violent protests ensue

Protests have broken out in St. Louis over the acquittal of former St. Louis police officer Jason Stockley. This photo is from a 2014 protest of a killing by an off-duty police officer in St. Louis.(Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Violent protests have broken out in St. Louis, Missouri, after former police officer Jason Stockley was found not guilty of murdering Anthony Smith in 2011 after a high-speed chase following a suspected drug deal.

  • Four officers have been injured and one police car has been vandalized.
  • Protestors have been pepper sprayed for attempting to block police travel.
  • Police blocked protestors from getting on a major highway, so they marched to police headquarters.
  • Local businesses closed and sent employees home early due to the protests.

What happened in 2011?

  • Stockley and his partner attempted to arrest Smith during a suspected drug deal.
  • Smith fled and a chase that reached speeds of 90 mph ensued through local neighborhoods.
  • Officers stopped Smith by ramming his vehicle, and Stockley, believing Smith was concealing a weapon, shot Smith five times, killing him.
  • A handgun and a bag of heroin was found in the vehicle. The handgun only had Stockley's DNA on it. The heroin had Smith's DNA on it.

Why was Stockley accused of premeditated murder?

  • Prosecutors accused Stockley of planting the weapon in Smith's vehicle after the fact.
  • During the chase, Stockley was heard on the in-car camera saying he was "gonna kill this [expletive], don't you know it."
  • Prosecutors said Stockley shot Smith four times quickly, then shot him "execution style" at close range to kill him.

Why was he acquitted?

  • Stockley waived his right to a jury trial, and his case was decided by bench trial by Judge Timothy Wilson.
  • "This court, as the trier of fact, is simply not firmly convinced of defendant's guilt. Agonizingly, this court has pored over the evidence again and again … This court, in conscience, cannot say that the state has proven every element of murder beyond a reasonable doubt or that the defendant did not act in self-defense," Wilson said in his decision.

(H/T St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

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