The mayor of St. Louis says the city is “on edge” as it awaits a verdict in the first-degree murder trial of former police officer Jason Stockley, in part because of a troubled history of justice in St. Louis and nationwide.
Stockley is accused of fatally shooting Anthony Lamar Smith in 2011. The case was heard last month, but it’s unclear when Judge Timothy Wilson will issue a verdict.
Activists have threatened civil disobedience if Stockley, who is white, is acquitted in the death of Smith, who was black.
“We’re all on edge because we have watched, in this country and in our region, that legal decisions can and do result in families and sometimes entire communities being left without a sense of justice,” Mayor Lyda Krewson said in a statement and video. “That can and has resulted in protests and demonstrations.”
The St. Louis region was in the spotlight in 2014 when 18-year-old Michael Brown, who was black and unarmed, was fatally shot by white officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri. The shooting and a grand jury’s decision not to indict Wilson led to months of racially charged protests.
“The worry and anxiety we are feeling today is not without cause, and it did not start with Ferguson,” Krewson said. “It has its roots in the story of our country. I hope we will all learn more about the laws and policies that closed the doors for some, while leaving them open for others.”
Stockley and his partner saw Smith involved in what they thought was a drug transaction at a fast-food parking lot in December 2011. Smith sped away, nearly striking the officers. After a chase, Stockley shot Smith while Smith was still in his car.
Stockley testified that Smith had a gun, but prosecutors alleged that Stockley planted the weapon found in the car. They also cited dashboard camera video in which Stockley threatened to kill Smith less than a minute before doing so.
Krewson, 64, who is white, was elected earlier this year in part because three black Democratic rivals split the African-American vote. She has pledged to help ease the racial divide in St. Louis. The city has a nearly evenly split population of blacks and whites among its 316,000 residents.
Shortly after her election, Krewson created a position of director of racial equity and priority initiatives. She hired Nicole Hudson, who was previously active in reform efforts in Ferguson.