ST. LOUIS • As the city awaits a verdict in the murder trial of a former St. Louis police officer — with the specter of disruptive protests looming, in the case of an acquittal — Mayor Lyda Krewson on Tuesday called for empathy and understanding for those who fear justice won’t be served.
In a trial that ended Aug. 9, prosecutors argued that Jason Stockley “executed” Anthony Lamar Smith, 24, after a car chase in 2011, shooting him five times at close range and planting a gun in Smith’s car to justify the killing. The defense said Stockley acted in self-defense, shooting a drug suspect who appeared to be reaching for a gun.
Stockley is charged with first-degree murder and armed criminal action. He waived his right to a jury trial, meaning St. Louis Circuit Judge Timothy Wilson will decide Stockley’s fate.
Despite persisting speculation and rumors on social media, Wilson has given no indication as to when he might make a decision. When he does, he could set a hearing to announce it or simply issue it outright.
In her statement, Krewson insisted she doesn’t know when the verdict will come or what it will be, but she urged St. Louisans to consider the impact of “laws and policies that close the door for some but leave them open to others.”
She also spoke to the potential for unrest in a city still raw from the events of Ferguson, when the 2014 shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, triggered months of protests and a national debate over racially biased policing.
“As we await this legal decision, please don’t let the anxiety, the worry and the pain determine how we treat each other,” Krewson said.
“Try to understand the reactions of others and be open to what we don’t understand in other’s reactions. Ask ourselves how we might feel if it was our son, daughter, mom, dad, or friend at the center of this legal decision.”
Tension surrounding the case escalated last week after community activists and clergy members vowed “mass disruption” resembling Ferguson if Stockley is acquitted of murder. City officials later staged barricades around downtown courthouses and police headquarters ahead of the decision.
Krewson and the city’s director of operations, Todd Waelterman, have been meeting with city department heads to go over response plans should demonstrations break out in the city.
“We have departments who are always prepared for this,” said Krewson spokesman Koran Addo.
Meanwhile, Krewson acknowledged on Tuesday that St. Louis is “in need of healing.”
“It is our choice now to continue to yell past each other, and keep our minds closed, or to consider how we might acknowledge what we’ve inherited, how we might learn about it, and how to choose a different way forward,” Krewson said.