State lawmakers react to aquittal in Stockley murder trial
COLUMBIA - Missouri politicians have spoken out after a judge acquitted former St. Louis police officer Jason Stockley. He was facing a first-degree murder charge for killing Anthony Lamar Smith after a police chase in 2011.
Stockley says he feared for his life when he shot Smith, because he says he saw him with a gun earlier. Prosecutors say Stockley planted the gun in Smith's car after the fatal shooting.
Rep. Cora Walker, D-Ferguson, issued a statement shortly after the not-guilty verdict was announced.
The statement said, in part, "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."
Activists have already begun protests in reaction to what they say is an unfair verdict. City leaders have urged the protesters to be peaceful.
In her statement, Walker said violence will not bring about positive change.
Rep. Michael Butler, D-St. Louis, also issued a statement, saying he is saddened and appalled at the verdict.
"This not guilty verdict of a police officer who violently killed a citizen is another slap in the face to the black community in St. Louis," Butler said. "And a shot in the heart to the family of the victim.”
Butler said he stands with nonviolent protesters, but said he could understand why some people would be frustrated with calls for peaceful protests.
“This system and all the politicians calling for peace are ignoring the pain this verdict causes our communities," the statement said. "The very people paid to protect us are killing us, paid to make peace are perpetuating violence, and we are supposed to be peaceful?"
One part of the statement he emphasized again on twitter said, “We will be non-violent but we will not settle on peace. No justice. No peace.”
Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri, said people cannot let the verdict detract from shared goals of having safer streets, community trust in police and a fair justice system.
It continued by referencing the 2014 Ferguson protests after police officer Darren Wilson fatally shot Michael Brown: "Since then our law enforcement and the families and businesses they serve have begun talking and hearing each other. We can't let today's decision send us back to our respective corners."
Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Missouri, also reacted. His statement said, in part, "Every American has the right to protest peacefully, and should have no doubt that right will be protected. However, if this verdict is met with violence and destruction, it will do nothing but reignite the fear and anger that law enforcement and community leaders have worked tirelessly to address since Ferguson."
Rep. Brandon Ellington, D-Kansas City, said, "History has shown time and time again that St. Louis police officers are allowed to continue to murder black men on camera with no guilty verdict in court...I am calling on the governor to instruct the National Guard to ensure the safety of protestors.
"My fear is that law enforcement has been given a free pass to murder and this again can be proven by the lack of verdicts in the city of St. Louis.”
The Missouri Democratic Party statement was: “In the wake of the Stockley verdict, we hope that all Missourians will come together peacefully to work for change and the Missouri Democratic Party is absolutely committed to building communities that recognize black lives matter.”