Days of protests continue in St. Louis after a judge found police officer Jason Stockley not guilty in the 2011 death of Anthony Lamar Smith.
The protests follow a pattern seen since the August 2014 killing of Michael Brown in nearby Ferguson: The majority of demonstrators, though angry, are law-abiding. But as the night wears on, a subsection emerges, a different crowd more willing to confront police, sometimes to the point of clashes.
Protest organizer Anthony Bell said he understands why some act out: While change can come through peaceful protests, such as those led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., years of oppression has caused some to turn violent.
“I do not say the (unruly) demonstrators are wrong, but I believe peaceful demonstrations are the best,” Bell said.
Many protesters believe police provoked demonstrators by showing up in riot gear and armored vehicles; police said they had no choice but to protect themselves once protesters started throwing things at them.
Stockley shot Smith after high-speed chase as officers tried to arrest Smith and his partner in a suspected drug deal.
Stockley, 36, testified he felt endangered because he saw Smith holding a silver revolver when Smith backed his car toward the officers and sped away.
Prosecutors said Stockley planted a gun in Smith’s car after the shooting. The officer’s DNA was on the weapon but Smith’s wasn’t. Dashcam video from Stockley’s cruiser recorded him saying he was “going to kill this (expletive).” Less than a minute later, he shot Smith five times.
Stockley’s lawyer dismissed the comment as “human emotions” during a dangerous pursuit. St. Louis Circuit Judge Timothy Wilson, who said prosecutors didn’t prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Stockley murdered Smith, said the statement could be ambiguous.
Stockley left the police department and moved to Houston three years ago.