Missouri Judge Acquits Ex-Cop Jason Stockton of Murdering Black Motorist

Missouri Judge Acquits Ex-Cop Jason Stockton of Murdering Black Motorist

The bench ruling Friday came more than a month after testimony concluded.

Activists have promised major demonstrations if Stockley is acquitted.

However, Judge Timothy Wilson said he doubted the prosecution's claim that the gun was planted, writing in his ruling: "The court observes, based on its almost 30 years on the bench, that an urban heroin dealer not in possession of a firearm would be an anomaly".

Police pepper sprayed a few protesters after they tried to block officers.

A white former Missouri policeman has been found not guilty of murdering a black man by shooting him five times after a auto chase.

Stockely says he approached Smith's vehicle and saw the 24-year-old reaching for a gun. Bruntrager said he was justified to use lethal force before the chase when the suspect's auto was a deadly weapon.

A high-speed chase ensued and as Stockley is chasing Smith through the streets, he is heard on police dash cam audio saying "I'm going to kill this mother f-er". Stockley then approached Smith's auto and opened fire with his service weapon.

Stockley emerges from the SUV and fires five shots into Smith's vehicle, killing him.

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Stockley said he believed the suspect had reached his gun and the officer said he was in such fear for his life he was backing up while shooting him.

Stockley's attorney, Neil Bruntrager, said the ex-officer on Friday was relieved and would seek to rebuild his life. The absence of DNA on the gun does not mean it was not Smith's, he wrote. After graduation, he served in Iraq, where he was injured and awarded the Army Bronze Star. Stockley, who was carrying his duty pistol along with an AK-47 (which he wasn't permitted to carry by the department), threatened that he was "going to kill this motherf****r" before Smith's auto crashed, as heard in footage obtained by St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

But the investigation continued and Mr Stockley was charged a year ago after prosecutors cited unspecified new evidence. Court records show he had a criminal record that included convictions for unlawful possession of a firearm and drug distribution.

The St. Louis area has a history of unrest in similar cases, including after Brown's death, when protests, some of them violent, erupted.

Smith's family settled a lawsuit against the city for $900,000 in 2013, Watkins said. Videos obtained by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch provide new insight into a fatal shooting that led to first-degree murder charges against Stockley, who was carrying a personal assault rifle against police policy.

ARNOLD: Immediately following the verdict, protesters took to the streets in downtown St. Louis. The decision by Judge Timothy Wilson was announced by a circuit attorney press release, per the Riverfront Times, after previous remarks by activists there would be "mass disruption" if Stockley was acquitted.

Smith's death occurred three years before the shooting death of Michael Brown in nearby Ferguson.

Smith's vehicle eventually slowed, and the officers made a decision to crash into his vehicle with theirs.

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