Police: St. Louis protests turn violent; several office…

Demonstrations after a former cop was acquitted for killing a black man in downtown St. Louis turned violent late Friday as at least 8 officers were injured and protesters throw bricks into local businesses, including a library. 

Two officers were taken to the hospital after being hit by bricks, and a third was injured but refused treatment, CBS affiliate KMOV-TV reports. Injuries included possible broken jaw as well as another officer with a dislocated shoulder, said St. Louis acting police commissioner Lawrence O’Toole.

O’Toole said at a press conference early Saturday police are awaiting confirmation on a number of people taken into custody as of right now and the charges that they will face. 

A flag is set on fire as protesters gather, Friday, Sept. 15, 2017, in St. Louis, after a judge found a white former St. Louis police officer, Jason Stockley, not guilty of first-degree murder in the death of a black man, Anthony Lamar Smith, who was fatally shot following a high-speed chase in 2011.

Jeff Roberson / AP

According to KMOV-TV, the altercation began when a group of protesters converged on Mayor Lyda Krewson’s home and threw rocks and broke windows, as well as splashed red paint on the building. O’Toole said Krewson’s house sustained damage.

Police responded immediately and cleared protesters from the property. The crowd was pressed further and further back from the home, and officers warned anyone who did not comply with orders would be arrested. 

Tear gas was later deployed as more than 100 officers gathered in riot gear and gas masks in the area around Krewson’s home. Flashbangs were deployed to disperse the crowd and protesters threw objects at the advancing a police line, including tear gas canisters. O’Toole said orders to disperse were given numerous times, tear gas was deployed after officers were assaulted with bricks and bottles. 

O’Toole said “officers have been tolerant and used great restraint.”

APTOPIX Police Shooting St Louis

Police line up as protesters gather, Friday, Sept. 15, 2017, in St. Louis, after a judge found a white former St. Louis police officer, Jason Stockley, not guilty of first-degree murder in the death of a black man, Anthony Lamar Smith, who was fatally shot following a high-speed chase in 2011.

Jeff Roberson / AP

After midnight, police began moving protesters, and members of the crowd threw rocks in response. Many struck passenger vehicles and buses. St. Louis police tweeted that “agitators are being warned that this is no longer a lawful assembly. If they do not disperse, they will be subject to arrest.”

Demonstrators smashed windows at a St. Louis Public Library branch, vandalizing walls and throwing books on the floor. KMOV-TV posted video of the library’s windows being smashed.

KMOV-TV also posted video of demonstrators burning an American flag.

Crowds initially gathered at 7 p.m. to organize and begin another march; in similar numbers demonstrations earlier in the day. Police had earlier characterized those protests as “largely peaceful,” although 23 people were arrested before 6 p.m., O’Toole said.

Hundreds gathered earlier Friday after a judge acquitted Jason Stockley, who was charged with first-degree murder, insisted he saw 24-year-old Anthony Lamar Smith holding a gun and felt he was in imminent danger. Prosecutors said the officer planted a gun in Smith’s car after the shooting. 

Stockley insisted he saw Smith holding a gun and felt he was in imminent danger. The officer asked the case to be decided by a judge instead of a jury.

“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,” St. Louis Circuit Judge Timothy Wilson wrote in the decision.

Wilson said he was not convinced of Stockley’s guilt. And as for Smith, the judge wrote that “an urban heroin dealer not in possession of a firearm would be an anomaly,” CBS News’ Dean Reynolds reported.

In an interview with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch , Stockley said he understands how the video of him fatally shooting Smith looks bad to investigators and the public, but he said the optics have to be separated from the facts and he did nothing wrong.

“I can feel for and I understand what the family is going through, and I know everyone wants someone to blame, but I’m just not the guy,” he said.

Stockley, 36, asked the case to be decided by a judge instead of a jury. Prosecutors objected to his request for a bench trial.

“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,” St. Louis Circuit Judge Timothy Wilson wrote in the decision .

In a written statement, St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner acknowledged the difficulty of winning police shooting cases but said prosecutors believe they “offered sufficient evidence that proved beyond a reasonable doubt” that Stockley intended to kill Smith.

Assistant Circuit Attorney Robert Steele emphasized during the trial that police dashcam video of the chase captured Stockley saying he was “going to kill this (expletive), don’t you know it.”

Less than a minute later, the officer shot Smith five times. Stockley’s lawyer dismissed the comment as “human emotions” uttered during a dangerous police pursuit. The judge wrote that the statement “can be ambiguous depending on the context.”

Stockley, who left St. Louis’ police force in 2013 and moved to Houston, could have been sentenced to up to life in prison without parole.

The case was among several in recent years in which a white officer killed a black suspect. 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.

“It’s a sad day in St. Louis, and it’s a sad day to be an American,” the Rev. Clinton Stancil, a protest leader, said regarding the acquittal.

The crowd of protesters included blacks, whites and other races. Some people carried guns, which state law allows.

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