Opening statements planned in ex-officer’s murder trial
ST. LOUIS (AP) — Video from a police dashboard camera and witnesses, along with DNA evidence, are expected to play a big role as a white former St. Louis officer goes to trial this week for killing a black suspect nearly six years ago.
Opening statements are planned Tuesday for Jason Stockley, who is charged with first-degree murder and armed criminal action in the 2011 death of 24-year-old Anthony Lamar Smith. Charges were filed last year after then-Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce cited unspecified new evidence.
The trial will be decided by a judge rather than a jury despite objections from prosecutors. It is the latest of several trials across the U.S. involving the fatal shootings of black men by police officers.
A key issue is a gun found in Smith’s car. Police reports have said Stockley’s DNA was on the gun, but Smith’s wasn’t. Stockley told investigators he unloaded the revolver as a safety precaution after the shooting.
Supporters of Smith have accused the 36-year-old Stockley of planting the gun.
The shooting happened Dec. 20, 2011. Stockley and his partner spotted Smith in a suspected drug transaction in a fast food parking lot, and that led to a 1-mile (1.6-kilometer) chase that initially ended when Smith crashed his rented silver Buick.
Police dashboard recordings and two videos from a restaurant show the officers pulled behind Smith’s car. As they got out, Smith backed into the police SUV and sped past Stockley, who nearly had the AK-47 rifle he was holding knocked from his hands. The weapon was his own, and police have said Stockley was not authorized to carry it on duty.
Stockley fired several shots from his department-issued pistol and another chase began, with two in-car cameras on. Stockley reported shots being fired and said “Going to kill this (expletive), don’t you know it,” according to court records.
The officers eventually rammed their sport utility vehicle into the back of Smith’s car, causing its air bags to deploy. The officers got out, and Stockley fired several shots into the car.
The police video from after the shooting shows Stockley going into the back of his police SUV, appearing to dig through a duffel bag. He doesn’t appear to have anything in his hands when getting out of the SUV and returning to Smith’s car. The police video then stops.
Stockley’s lawyer has said Stockley was looking for a “clot pack” to stop Smith’s bleeding.
Video from a bystander shows Stockley later climbing into the driver’s seat of Smith’s car immediately after officers pulled Smith out.
According to police reports, Stockley told internal investigators and his sergeant that he believed Smith was reaching for a revolver after being ordered to show his hands.
Officers were acquitted in recent police shooting trials in Minnesota, Oklahoma and Wisconsin. A case in Ohio twice ended with hung juries, and prosecutors have decided not to seek a third trial.
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