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Proposed settlement says St. Louis will pay nearly $5M over police response to 2017 protest

The protests began in September of 2017 when former St. Louis police officer Jason Stockley was acquitted in the murder of Anthony Lamar Smith.

ST. LOUIS — The City of St. Louis has agreed to pay a settlement of nearly $5 million to dozens of people who claim their civil rights were violated by police officers during protests after the 2017 acquittal of a former police officer.

According to a proposed class-action settlement filed last week, the city agreed to pay $4,914,000 in a settlement with more than 80 people who were arrested in downtown St. Louis on Sept. 17, 2017. The settlement agreement lays out a breakdown of how that money will be dispersed.

A city spokesman said the city would not comment because it is "ongoing litigation."

The protests began in September of 2017 when former St. Louis police officer Jason Stockley was acquitted in the murder of Anthony Lamar Smith.

The downtown protests were on the third day following the acquittal. After most of the protesters had disbanded that night, police surrounded about 100 people who were still downtown near Washington Avenue and North Tucker Boulevard.

Attorney Javad Khazaeli, who has been working on the case, said the protests had ended, and some of the people involved in the class-action lawsuit were just in the area seeing what was going on when they were caught up and arrested.

Police said they refused to "disburse," but the lawsuit claims officers used something called a "kettling" technique — surrounding people, refusing to let them leave and arresting them.

People also said they were pepper-sprayed and beaten even after they complied with officers.

According to the proposed class-action settlement, the city denied all wrongdoing in the case as part of the settlement. 

"Neither this Settlement Agreement, nor any of its terms and provisions, nor any of the negotiations connected with it, shall be construed as an admission or concession by the Defendant City, or any current, former, or future employee, agent, or officer of Defendant City, of any legal violations, any legal requirements, or any failure to comply with any applicable law," the agreement said.

The settlement agreement breaks the payment recipients into four groups. 

People who filed individual lawsuits that were consolidated into the class-action suit would get about $68,500 before fees, with a final take-home amount of $43,000.

Members of the class-action lawsuit who provide medical records showing treatment that lasted more than three months for injuries sustained during the arrest would get between $55,900 and $80,000 before fees and would get between $35,500 and $50,500 after fees.

Other class members who did not file individual lawsuits could get up to $26,500 after fees.

A judge still needs to approve the plan before money can be distributed to class members.

Some of the money has also been set aside for members of the class who suffered a permanent injury or disability due to the events of Sept. 17, 2017.

"There's significant money involved here, and that's important," Khazaeli said. "And that's important because this police department has not been willing to hold itself accountable, and eventually, the only tools that citizens have are lawsuits."

This is the second multi-million dollar settlement in connection with the police response to the Stockley protests. 

In 2021, the city agreed to pay $5 million to Officer Luther Hall, a Black police officer who was assaulted by white officers while working undercover during the protest.

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