ST. LOUIS – The trial of a former St. Louis police officer charged with what prosecutors have described as the calculated killing of a 24-year-old man six years ago will begin Monday, reported NBC News.
Charges Against Former St. Louis Police Officer
Prosecutors allege that Jason Stockley, 36, intended to kill Anthony Lamar Smith, before shooting him five times on Dec. 20, 2011. As a result, part of their case will include a recorded internal camera during a high-speed pursuit in which Stockley reportedly said he intended to kill Smith.
Drug Deal Led to Pursuit
Police reports said that officers approached Smith. Consequently, he was accused of being involved in a drug deal behind a restaurant north of downtown St. Louis. Smith fled before being apprehended, according to court documents obtained by NBC affiliate KSDK.
At one point, the station reported, Stockley could be heard in the video saying he was “going to kill this [expletive] — don’t you know it.”
However, as Smith’s car slowed during the chase, Stockley instructed his partner, who was driving their SUV, to ram Smith’s car, according to prosecutors.
“Stockley then approached Smith’s car on the driver’s side and shot five times into the car, striking the victim Anthony Smith with each shot,” former St. Louis Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce said last year.
Stockley, a four-year-veteran of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department at the time, told internal affairs investigators that he believed Smith was reaching for a handgun, according to police reports obtained by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
But Joyce said the only gun found in Smith’s car bore Stockley’s DNA.
Yet homicide detectives later determined that the shooting was justifiable, although federal and internal affairs investigations continued.
Finally, Stockley left the agency in 2013, the same year the Board of Police Commissioners settled a wrongful death suit with Smith’s family for $900,000. But he was charged with first-degree murder in May 2016; a grand jury indicted him in August.
Change of Venue Denied
His attorney’s sought a change of venue citing intense local media coverage. However, Circuit Judge Timothy Wilson denied the request. Stockley opted to waive his right to a jury trial, court documents said.
Assistant Circuit Attorney Aaron Levinson criticized the move. He said police killings are “of particular interest to the public.” Hence, allowing a judge to rule over such “controversial” cases, he said, “creates a perception amongst the public that police officers accused of crimes get special treatment in our criminal justice system.”
Levinson’s criticism is ridiculous. Regardless of Stockley’s circumstances, he simply exercised a right afforded to any criminal defendant in the same position.
Stockley’s attorney, Neil Bruntrager, didn’t respond to a request for comment Sunday night.
(Photo: St. Louis Police Department)