Jason Stockley Verdict Imminent: Missouri National Guard, St. Louis Police Ramp Up

Missouri Governor Eric Greitens has activated the National Guard and the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department put officers on 12-hour shifts for Friday in preparation for possible backlash to the upcoming verdict in the trial of Jason Stockley, the police officer accused of murdering Anthony Lamar Smith. 

“Today, Governor Eric Greitens took the initial steps to activate the Missouri National Guard in anticipation of possible events related to the Jason Stockley verdict,” a statement read. “As governor, I am committed to protecting everyone’s constitutional right to protest peacefully while also protecting people’s lives, homes and communities. Taking the steps to put the Missouri National Guard on standby is a necessary precaution.”

A spokesperson for the National Guard said the preparations were “just preliminary,” and did not offer additional details. No members have yet been stationed in St. Louis, but they are on alert. 

Police officers in St. Louis will be working 12-hour shifts on Friday to be “prepared for any scenario.” A statement read that members of the police department made the decision after meeting with city leaders in anticipation of the aftermath of the verdict. 

The case has drawn attention, especially from activists now congregating in the city, because of its parallels to the 2014 shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown by Officer Darren Wilson. In that case, Wilson was acquitted and St. Louis erupted into weeks of protests, riots and looting, costing the city millions of dollars in damage.

This time, the governor is being extracautious. Greitens criticized former Governor Jay Nixon, who served during Ferguson, for a lack of preparedness.

In an interview with Reuters in July 2016, Greitens said of Nixon and former Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster, “We saw how due to their lack of leadership, Ferguson spun out of control.”

The governor met with clergy members in St. Louis on Monday, advocating peaceful protest, and saying he wanted to get the advice of clergy members who were in touch with the activist community in the city. 

But some in attendance were not pleased. Reverend Darryl Gray, who has been a pastor for 35 years and has held leadership roles in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the NAACP, said after the announcement of the national guard activation that the governor “clearly did not take our advice.” He sees the move as an “intimidation tactic” against protesters. 

Of the involvement of clergy members in protests, Gray said, “We’re not just going to pray in one corner while people are protesting in another.”

What Happened?

In 2011, Jason Stockley, a 36-year-old white policeman, shot and killed Anthony Lamar Smith, a 24-year-old black man, after a car chase following what Stockley said was a drug transaction. Just before he shot Smith, Stockley said, “We're killing this [expletive deleted], don’t you know,” according to dashboard camera video cited in Stockley’s trial.

According to prosecutors, Stockley planted a gun in Smith’s car that day. Stockley’s DNA was found on the gun, according to court documents, and Smith’s was not.

The court did not set a public date for its verdict, and Stockley waived his right to trial by jury. New evidence reopened the case in May 2016, despite a $900,000 settlement the police department paid the Smith family in 2013, one of the largest police department settlements in city history.