Local leaders and politicians issue statements after former St. Louis Metropolitan Police Officer Jason Stockley was found not guilty of murder by a judge’s ruling after a bench trial.
Gov. Eric Greitens:
“We know this verdict causes pain for many people. We have been in touch with city and county officials, and the State of Missouri will continue to assist them. I'm committed to protecting everyone's constitutional right to protest peacefully, while also protecting people's lives, homes, and communities. For anyone who protests, please do so peacefully.”
Mayor Lyda Krewson:
“My thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of Anthony Lamar Smith, our police, judge, prosecutor, our citizens who find no comfort or justice, and everyone involved in this difficult case.
"I am appalled at what happened to Anthony Lamar Smith. I am sobered by this outcome. Frustration, anger, hurt, pain, hope and love all intermingle. I encourage St. Louisans to show each other compassion, to recognize that we all have different experiences and backgrounds and that we all come to this with real feelings and experiences. We are all St. Louisans. We rise and fall together.
As Mayor, I will continue to work to create a more equitable community and do everything possible to keep all St. Louisans safe.”
Attorney General Josh Hawley:
"The First Amendment guarantees the right of every American to peaceably assemble and express their views and their grievances. I encourage protestors to demonstrate peacefully, mindful of their safety and the safety of others. I know our law enforcement will work to keep them safe."
Lewis Reed, president of the Board of Aldermen:
“The judge made a decision to not convict in the Jason Stockley case. It is a decision that I personally deeply disagree with. I can’t imagine, considering the evidence made public, that Stockley was not found to be guilty of committing a crime. The community has the right to be frustrated by the decision and should exercise their right to protest this decision. But, we cannot resort to actions that will set us back further as a community.
“There must be changes made to our system to allow a transparent, independent investigation in cases like this. Our city and our country will not be able to move forward until a true level of fairness exists, not just in police shootings, but economics, education and everything else.
“The right to free speech must also be accompanied by the true goal of the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We must directly address the concerns of the community and we must continue to work together for change until those rights are secure for everyone.”
Kim Gardner, St. Louis Circuit Attorney:
“I’m disappointed with the court’s finding. “I know there are better ways we can do this if we join together to make the system work for us all.”
Congressman Wm. Lacy Clay:
“Once again, another young Black man dies at the hands of a police officer…with no consequences. Jason Stockley acted as judge, jury and executioner. He violated multiple department regulations, and he showed a total disregard for the life of my constituent, Anthony Lamar Smith. Justice has been cruelly denied for Anthony Lamar Smith’s family and this community. I stand in total solidarity with them in expressing my absolute outrage at this verdict.
“Our communities need and respect good policing. A few bad apples denigrate the entire force and place officers and citizens unnecessarily in harm’s way when they meet. We must demand changes in local law enforcement to ensure all lives are respected and honored. There is no coming back after a life is taken, only sadness.
“Black Lives Matter, and that declaration is not meant to diminish or denigrate the value of any other group. It is simply an honest statement of the ugly and very painful truth that in America, in 2017, some lives are still worth more than other lives.
“Our young people are outraged and angry about that…and so am I. This tragic case also underscores the urgent, fundamental question that our nation, our state, and our community have thus far failed to honestly address…how do we transform local law enforcement and our criminal justice system to finally provide equal justice under the law for all…instead of just for some.
“The federal legislation that I have already introduced could provide some of the answers because it would mandate increased sensitivity training for all police officers to help them deescalate potentially violent situations before they become deadly.
“My bill also requires the appointment of an independent prosecutor in all instances when police use deadly force. And my legislation incentivizes the use of body cameras by all local police departments who compete for Justice Department grants.
“These transformative changes would make a huge difference in bridging the trust deficit that still divides many police officers from the citizens they are sworn to serve and protect.”
St. Louis Treasurer Tishaura Jones:
"First, my thoughts and prayers are with the family of Anthony Lamar Smith. Anthony isn’t just someone whose name will be synonymous with Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, Michael Brown, and the other black men who died in officer involved shootings. He was a father, son, friend, and real person.
"My thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends. As a mother, I cannot imagine their loss.
Judge Wilson’s decision leaves me with more questions than answers. Officer Jason Stockley yelled he would kill Smith on a recording less than a minute before ultimately doing so, yet he walks out of court today a free man.
"Jason Stockley’s acquittal will lead to protests and disruptions in the coming days and weeks. I do not advocate violence in response to the Wilson verdict. At the same time, the ultimate measure of how our community deals with this verdict is not how quickly we are able to get back to business, but whether we implement policy changes addressing injustice, racism, and inequality. We can no longer prioritize short-term order over long-term justice."
Photos: Protests in St. Louis after Stockley decision
State Sen. Jake Hummel:
“My thoughts and prayers are with the family of Anthony Lamar Smith, as today's verdict fails to provide the justice they sought and the closure they seek. Our city is hurting, our citizens are searching for answers, and people are justifiably angry. We must remain committed to protecting every citizen’s constitutional right to protest publicly without interference and acknowledge that while protests do not have to be polite, anger must not give way to violence, and destruction must not replace dialogue. After all, peace can only be achieved by the peaceful, and I know the people of St. Louis are ready to lead the way.”
Rep. Cora Faith Walker:
“As we have now learned of the not-guilty verdict in the Jason Stockley murder trial, we must have faith in the belief that we have an opportunity to come out of this better and stronger. We must allow and respect the catharsis that is to be expected from a community that has long-anticipated this outcome yet, we must also understand that violence and destruction are not constructive catalysts of positive change. Ultimately, we must hold fast to the belief that we have a chance to unite in a common goal of achieving true social justice that promotes and protects the dignity of all and work to enact to policies that advance substantive change: access to health care, quality education, good-paying jobs, safe and affordable housing, and prosperity for all.
“I recognize the difficulties of addressing the systemic issues we face as a society and transforming the institutions that have perpetuated these issues. Yet, the courage of those on the front lines exercising one of the most fundamental tenets in our Democracy in pursuit of a more equitable and just society and the courage of those who truly serve our community and protect and uphold our Constitution, exemplifies our capacity if we have the courage to come together, commit to confronting our challenges, and concentrate our energies on making our region, our state, our country and our world, a better place for our children and for future generations to come.”
Interim St. Louis PoliceChief Lawrence M. O’Toole:
"Today, Honorable Circuit Judge Timothy Wilson announced a not guilty verdict in the trial of ex- St. Louis Police Officer Jason Stockley for the fatal shooting of Anthony Lamar Smith on December 20, 2011. Throughout the investigation, our Department fully cooperated with both state and federal authorities as they examined the facts of the case. Judge Wilson rendered his ruling and as citizens of this community we must respect the judicial process.
"While we know emotions are running high, our number one priority is protecting and serving our citizens. We ask that citizens who choose to demonstrate, do so peacefully.
"We are committed to ensuring every citizen’s First Amendment rights, however, we are equally committed to enforcing the laws of our city while upholding our core values of service, integrity, leadership and fair treatment to all. We will continue our mission to strengthen community relationships and implement meaningful reforms that build trust among the citizens we serve."
Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis:
“In light of today’s announcement of the verdict in the Jason Stockley case, the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis feels that justice has not been served in the death of another black man at the hands of law enforcement. This case is another example of why police-community relations are at an all-time low across this country.
“The results of this case and other cases of police shootings across this nation show that there are often no consequences to law enforcement for killing African Americans. These verdicts breed the hate, distrust and fear that we work to overcome daily. With all of the efforts to move our community forward in the past three years after the events in Ferguson, this is a major setback to improving racial relations in the St. Louis community. This outcome reflects the lack of civil rights and injustice that African Americans still experience every day in this society. The Declaration of Independence states “that all men are created equal”, but until justice truly has no color we are failing in achieving this goal.
“In the U.S. Constitution through the First Amendment, we are granted the right to free speech and the right to peaceably assemble and protest. We fully support peaceful and nonviolent demonstrations regarding today’s decision. At a time when the St. Louis region should be focused on improving our school systems, creating and attracting new jobs, increasing access to affordable healthcare and creating a more welcome and diverse community, this decision has once again taken us back in race relations and severely damaged our reputation across this nation.”
Sen. Jamilah Nasheed:
“No outcome of this trial could ever bring back the life of Anthony Lamar Smith, a young man shot to death by Jason Stockley,” said Sen. Nasheed. “I stand with the peaceful protestors, clergy and activists whose voices rise up, demanding that integrity and accountability be restored to our justice system before another black life is taken too soon.”
Organization for Black Struggle:
“The Organization for Black Struggle stands in staunch solidarity with the family of Anthony Lamar Smith. The Not Guilty verdict is salt in the wounds of the Smith family who sought real justice in the murder of their loved one. The African American community is full of righteous rage as the ruling of Judge Timothy Wilson represents another douse of gasoline on the perpetual fire of racism and police violence against our community. OBS will not be used to quell the outrage by justice-seeking people to this verdict nor be an apologist for extreme actions by citizens.
“’With yet another justified act of police violence, members of our community will fear for their safety,’ says Jamala Rogers. ‘We can’t respect nor depend on a judicial system that de-values Black lives.’
“OBS worked for over thirty years for local control of the police department to ensure we have accountability to our community. The mayor, the police chief and other city officials must understand there will not and cannot be business as usual in this city when a black life is taken.
“OBS believes in non-violent protest and direct action. We also believe that our community must be focused on building alternatives to the police state. This calls for thoughtful education and strategic organizing. When we truly re-envision public safety and how to re-invest our hard-earned tax dollars, old power relationships will change and we are empowered to build something that works for us. We must be creative in our thinking and organizing, such as instituting neighborhood safety patrols, develop mediation centers and creating healing circles.
“There is much work to be done as our community grieves its loss. We call for community, faith, civic and labor sectors to come together to plan effectively and to build a powerful racial justice movement in a city and a country that continues to daily engage in anti-black practices and actions. We are the people we have been waiting for.”
Archbishop Robert Carlson:
“If we want peace and justice, we must come together as a community through prayer, mutual understanding, and forgiveness. While acknowledging the hurt and anger, we must not fuel the fires of hatred and division. We must ask God for peace in our own hearts and share it with those around us. Violence does not lead to peace and justice – they are opposing forces and cannot coexist. I implore each of you to choose peace! Reject the false and empty hope that violence will solve problems. Violence only creates more violence. We must work together for a better, stronger, safer community, one founded upon respect for each other, and one in which we see our neighbor as another self.”
Joe Reagan, president & CEO of St. Louis Regional Chamber:
“The court has issued its verdict, finding ex-St. Louis police officer Jason Stockley not guilty of murder. As we noted last week, opinions on this verdict are divided. We expect that some of our friends and neighbors will exercise their right to assemble and be heard. Whether you agree with them or not, we ask everyone to respect the right of all people to demonstrate and call for change.
“Freedom of speech and assembly are at the core of American beliefs. We have learned it is vital to listen to those demonstrating to hear the message they are sending. This is the only way to find common ground, a path forward to bridging the divides between us. This path is what can lead us to positive, lasting change for our country.
“While people have a right to protest, they do not have a right to hurt someone else or their property. Violence will only further divide our community and set back what progress and healing we have made together over the last few years. We know we must do more.
“We ask a great deal of our law enforcement officers and first responders every day, and know that what we ask them to do now is that much harder. They are well-trained professionals and we know they are up to the task of protecting the rights of demonstrators while also keeping people and property safe.
“Our thoughts are with those families who have been affected by this tragedy. Our hopes are firmly planted in our region’s future. Let us learn from each other’s fear, pain and frustration; let us work together to be the healing path forward.”
Faith leaders with PICO National Network
“Missouri is the “show me state,’” said the Rev. Dr. Cassandra Gould, executive director of Missouri Faith Voices. “From the Dred Scott case in 1857 to the non-indictment of Darren Wilson in the murder of Mike Brown, and now, the acquittal of officer Jason Stockley in the murder of Antony Lamar Smith, the judicial system continues to show us that Black lives don't matter in this state. The role of faith leaders in this moment is to dismantle an immoral system, act prophetically and call for justice until it, the words of the prophet Amos, “rolls like a river.””
“My religion clearly states that “thou shalt not kill,” said the Rev. Michael McBride, director of urban strategies for PICO National Network, and campaign director for LIVE FREE, a nationwide initiative to curb gun violence and mass incarceration. “There is no justification for the court’s failure to hold Stockley accountable for killing Smith. The court essentially set case law that police can carry out extrajudicial killings for people of color and persons suspected of being drug dealers. With each acquittal, hopes for a justice system that recognizes the value of Black lives diminishes.”
“The overwhelming police presence that we see in St. Louis today to supposedly quell citizens, citizens who have seen too many rogue cops walk free after killing Black men, should have been utilized to keep the community safe from Stockley, who said he was going to kill Smith and then fulfilled that promise.”