A former St. Louis police officer who was caught on tape saying intended to kill a man in December 2011 was found not guilty Friday for the shooting death of Anthony Lamar Smith nearly six years ago.
Jason Stockley, who was charged with first-degree murder in May 2016, was also acquitted of criminal action charges, NBC News reports. He resigned from the force in 2013 and settled a wrongful death suit with Smith’s family for $900,000 the same year, the outlet writes.
Smith, a 24-year-old new father and fiancé, was killed by Stockley after the officer fired five times into his vehicle after a short pursuit. According to a police report, Smith was suspected of being involved in a drug deal behind a restaurant. When Smith took off, the officers followed. The chase ended when Stockley instructed his partner to ram into Smith’s vehicle. Smith can be heard on dash cam video saying he’s “going to kill this (expletive) — don’t you know.”
During the bench trial, Stockley said he did not recall saying what prosecutors believe is clear proof of a premeditated murder. His actions were eventually deemed justifiable by the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department.
“Of course I’m disappointed with the court’s decision,” Circuit Attorney Kimberly Gardner said of Friday’s acquittal. “In light of the verdict, it’s time to take a harder look at how officer-involved shootings are addressed in our city.”
Stockley contends that he acted in self defense. St. Louis Circuit Judge Timothy Wilson agreed.
“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,” he said in his ruling.
This is a developing story.