September 15, 2017
Joint Statement from ArchCity Defenders, St. Louis Action Council and M.O.R.E.
On Friday, a judge acquitted Officer Jason Stockley of first degree murder and armed criminal action for the fatal shooting of Anthony Lamar Smith, a twenty-four year-old black man and father from St. Louis. ArchCity Defenders, St. Louis Action Council and M.O.R.E. stand in solidarity with the family of Anthony Lamar Smith, whose name was added to the long list of black men and women killed by the police in the St. Louis region. Grieving families who lose loved ones at the hands of police officers all too often seek justice from a legal system that instead protects their loved ones’ killers. We saw this play out today in Jason Stockley’s case, a former St. Louis Metro Police Officer, who was not convicted for the murder of Anthony Lamar Smith.
This devastating verdict reinforces the message that law enforcement can use fatal, excessive force against communities of color and turn to the courts for protection. The egregious facts of this case underscore the failures of the criminal legal system even in clear cut cases of police violence. Officer Stockley carried his personal weapon, an AK-47, with him on duty in violation of department policy. Stockley was heard saying “I’m going to kill this motherfucker,” during his pursuit. He shot Anthony Lamar Smith five times at close range, with the “kill shot” being fired from six inches away from Mr. Smith. Officer Stockley’s statements at the scene contradicted that of other witnesses, too. Yet, he was acquitted. This case makes it crystal clear that police officers may murder with impunity.
National data indicates that St. Louis City police department kills more people per capita than other departments, making it the deadliest in the country. Additionally, black men are killed by St. Louis police at a rate of 9 for every 100,000 people, almost double the national average murder rate of 5 for every 100,000 people.
“Mr. Smith’s family has already lost their loved one to violence and now they are being denied justice. If police can announce they are going to murder, carry personal AK-47s, plant weapons, and shoot unarmed people 5 times at close range with no consequences, no black man in America is safe,” said Thomas Harvey, Executive Director of Arch City Defenders. “Police and courts in this region and across America have to accept that racism influences police actions and the court’s protection of those actions. This verdict shows that there has been no change. There can be no trust without accountability.”
“Three years after the Ferguson Uprising, St. Louis finds itself in the same place. The continued disregard for black life and the failure to hold police accountable creates heightened tensions between police and the community. We will continue to demand justice and are committed to using every tool available to do so,” said Organizer and Activist, Kayla Reed, who is also a board member of ArchCity Defenders.
ArchCity Defenders, St. Louis Action Council and M.O.R.E. have a history of collaborating to transform the criminal legal system in our region.
Z. Gorley, Communications Director at ArchCity Defenders