Mimesis Law
27 June 2017

Facts Catch Up To Former St. Louis Cop Jason Stockley

July 29, 2016 (Fault Lines) — Earlier this week, we discussed how an abusive officer was criminally charged in Reading, Pennsylvania. Today we want to discuss former Saint Louis Police officer Jason Stockley being charged with murder for the shooting death of Anthony Lamar Smith in December of 2011 following a car chase.

The incident happened when Stockley and his partner, Brian Bianchi, reportedly observed a drug transaction at a fast food restaurant and tried to make contact with Smith while carrying an unauthorized AK-47 style rifle with a drum magazine. Instead of surrendering, Smith drove past the officers. Stockley was concerned that Smith would hit Bianchi with the car and fired at Smith’s vehicle—with his pistol! Remember that fact. I’ll come back to it later.

Smith then led the two officers on a mile long chase at speeds of over 80 mph. To bring this into perspective, at 80 mph, it takes 42 seconds to travel a mile. Admittedly Smith wouldn’t have been going 80 mph the entire time, but you are likely talking about a chase that was only a couple of minutes long. Police put that sort of stuff in their press releases because the public doesn’t understand it and it seems much more dangerous than it was, because in reality, it wasn’t that long. Smith lost control on the wet road and the officers rammed his vehicle with their police SUV.

This caused the airbags to deploy—you’ll need to remember this fact too. Stockley then exited the police SUV, approached Smith’s vehicle and. within 26 seconds of the wreck, shot him five times. Stockley said that Smith pointed a pistol at him. Drugs and a gun were found in the vehicle.

When this was initially reviewed, the dashcam video was also reviewed, but it was obstructed by the deployed airbag. Kirkwin Taylor and Taylor’s 5-year-old son were at the fast food place with Smith, and Taylor said that there was neither a gun nor drugs in the car at that time. Smith’s girlfriend was on a cellphone call with Smith when he was shot, and said that Smith was crying for help.

Stockley was initially cleared in the shooting. Smith’s family sued the police in federal court and the city settled for $900,000, but without an admission of liability and with a confidentiality clause. That seems a little high, but maybe not once we find out some of the other facts in the matter.

It seems that Stockley told Bianchi as they were chasing Smith that he was:

“going to kill this [m*****f****r], don’t you know it.”

Stockley, a West Point graduate and a wounded combat veteran, denied the allegations in the lawsuit, but that didn’t explain why he was displaying a personally owned AK-47 during the initial confrontation, but fired at Smith with his pistol. Look, if you have to use deadly force, you have to use deadly force and you are not limited to a particular kind of deadly force. Stockley is holding a rifle, and if he needed to shoot at Smith, it would be much easier to fire the rifle instead of transferring the rifle to the off hand and then drawing and firing your pistol. It’s what I would have done.

The problem is that Stockley was not supposed to be carrying the rifle. It wasn’t authorized by the department. So why did he have it out to begin with? Simply put, an AK-47 is much more intimidating, makes you much more of a warrior. But once things turned to ca-ca, Stockley was faced with shooting at Smith to supposedly protect his partner, and if he did so with the AK, he could be fired. So he transitioned to his pistol and fired. At the end of the chase, he fired five rounds into Smith at point blank range.

Of course he was cleared criminally. The dashcam was obstructed and Bianchi was not testifying against Stockley. Stockley was suspended for 30 days for weapon and pursuit policy violations.

Except that the story wasn’t quite yet over. You see, there is no statute of limitation on murder.

In May of 2016, Stockley, who had resigned from the St. Louis Police in 2013 and moved to Houston, Texas, was arrested by U.S. Marshals on a murder warrant. Additional evidence had come to light that only Stockley’s DNA was on the revolver supposedly possessed by Smith.

Stockley’s bail was set at $1,000,000, with a minimum cash bond of $100,000.00. The very strong and very aggressive St. Louis police union immediately posted his bond. And all of a sudden, some cellphone videos popped up. You see, the public is not inclined to provide evidence against police officers if nothing is going to happen. All that does is make them targets. And the videos, while they don’t show the actual shooting, show something else.

Airbags. To be more specific, side-curtain airbags. Exactly how, 26 seconds after impact and deployment of the airbags, did Stockley see Smith reaching for anything? The side‑curtain airbags prevent any observation from the sides. The front airbags would still be deflating and filling the interior of the car with the smoky residue from the deployment, to the point that it would be almost impossible to see inside the vehicle.[1]

I don’t see how there is any way that Stockley could have seen Smith reach for anything.

And then the rest of the problems start. Stockley is seen hiding his AK in the back of the police SUV. He rummages through his bag, “looking” for first aid equipment, but doesn’t find any and doesn’t try to render any aid. As a matter of fact, he looks supremely unconcerned with Smith’s medical condition. The person filming this on his cellphone noted that Stockley just walked up to the car and started shooting: “He didn’t even raise the curtain up,” presumably talking about the opaque side-curtain airbag.[2] After the body is removed from the vehicle, Stockley enters the vehicle.

What the? Why is the officer involved in the shooting entering the crime scene? I wrote about a justified police shooting on June 24, 2016. That shooting involved a body cam video and showed the suspect coming at the officer with a knife before he was shot. The one thing that you should notice in that case was as soon as the situation was controlled and the suspect was no longer a threat, the involved officer removed himself from the immediate area and other officers did not allow him back into the crime scene.

That didn’t happen here. Why exactly did Stockley enter the vehicle and stay in the vehicle for half-a-minute or more? Was he putting a throw-down or drop-gun in the car? Remember, only his DNA was on the gun. What about dope? Was he also planting drugs?

This is why you don’t let officers who just shot someone participate in the investigation. You keep them away from the scene. Period. You don’t let them stand around and talk with each other, or answer questions while the other officer is standing there. It’s just not done, and it is never done at a professional police department.

The head of the police union, Jeff Roorda, says that the video helps Stockley. Roorda, who was a member of the Missouri Legislature twice, until he was defeated for reelection, is a former police officer. A police officer who was fired for, among other things, being untruthful. So now we’re supposed to take his word, because he used to be a cop?

The people of St. Louis deserve better than what they are getting. Stockley should have been charged from the start. The investigation was clearly looking at how do we clear him, not how do we address this issue, and determine whether it is or is not a crime.

[1] In the cellphone video, you’ll see a black officer holding the side-curtain airbag out of the way so he can see into the car.

[2] At 1:00 in the second video.

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