ST. LOUIS — Several members of the clergy in the St. Louis area are questioning why it took four years for murder charges to be filed against a former city police officer who fatally shot a suspect.
Representatives of the Missionary Baptist State Convention of Missouri, Baptist Ministers Union of St. Louis and Vicinity, the NAACP and the ACLU demanded more accountability Monday, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch (http://bit.ly/2dh4Vvj ) reported. They said they want mandatory body cameras for police and for the U.S. Department of Justice to analyze the city department’s procedures.
Drug suspect Anthony Lamar Smith was fatally shot in December 2011 by then-officer Jason Stockley, who was charged earlier this year with first-degree murder. Stockley, now 35, left the force in 2013.
Stockley told investigators he fired after Smith reached for a gun. But Smith’s supporters say the gun was planted by police.
Videos obtained by the newspaper earlier this month included footage from inside the police SUV as Stockley and his partner chased Smith’s vehicle. Court documents accuse Stockley of saying during the chase, “Going to kill this (expletive), don’t you know it.”
Clergy members say the video shows the killing was premeditated.
“What was considered a justifiable homicide in 2011 now comes as a first-degree murder in 2016?” the Rev. Phillip Duvall said. “We want to know why that is.”
Police Chief Sam Dotson said his department is already responding to some of the clergy’s concerns, including instituting a body camera program, adding some in-car cameras and forming a unit to investigate police shootings.
“The profession has changed, and it’s changing more rapidly than any of us have seen in our careers,” Dotson said. “And we agree, there are a lot of opportunities to get better.”
Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce filed the murder charge against Stockley in May citing new evidence she did not disclose.
The videos were from Stockley’s vehicle and surveillance cameras on a building; video of the shooting itself is partly obstructed. Stockley is seen on video going to the police SUV after the shooting and going through a bag in its back seat. He told investigators he went to get a “clot pack” to address Smith’s bleeding but then realized it would be futile.
After Smith is removed from his car, the video shows Stockley getting into the driver’s seat. He told investigators he was unloading Smith’s handgun. Stockley’s DNA — not Smith’s — was found on the weapon.
Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, http://www.stltoday.com