St. Louis awaits Stockley verdict: Greitens activates National Guard, dead man's fiancee urges peace
Updated at 8:15 p.m. Sept. 14 with Greitens' meeting — Though there’s no official word on when the Jason Stockley verdict will be announced in St. Louis, city and state leaders made it clear the time is soon.
A few hours after activating the National Guard, Gov. Eric Greitens met Thursday night with the fiancee of Anthony Lamar Smith, a black man who was fatally shot by Stockley, an white ex-St. Louis officer, in December 2011. Earlier in the day, Mayor Lyda Krewson issued a video in which she said the city is preparing to quell any disorder. And the city and county police departments said they’d start 12-hour shifts starting Friday morning.
Activists have promised days of protests if Stockley, who resigned in 2013 and now lives in Texas, is acquitted.
Greitens and Christina Wilson, Smith’s fiancee, met at the Wainwright Building in St. Louis.
Wilson said she didn’t want to see violence if a judge acquits Stockley, who claims he shot Smith in self-defense.
“In this situation, we might not get what we want — and we might … get what we want,” she said. “But however it goes, I ask for peace on behalf of my daughter, Anthony’s loved ones. And if you feel like you want to speak out, speak how you feel. … Just do it in a peaceful way.”
Greitens, who didn’t take questions, again called for calm: “One life has been lost in this case and we don’t need more bloodshed.” He later added, “Whatever the verdict is, we will protect every single person’s right to peacefully protest. And whatever the verdict is, we will also protect people’s lives, their homes and our communities.”
Smith’s family settled a wrongful death lawsuit with the St. Louis Board of Police Commissioners for $900,000 in 2013.
No one knows how the judge will rule, or when. But Wilson’s attorney, Al Watkins, said the amount of preparations happening now is telling.
“You want to know what this simple guy thinks? That verdict is not going to be consistent with the evidence,” he said.
Protest in a park
In a statement and video, Krewson said the city's police department has done extensive training and planning to respond to public reaction to the judge's order, and worked with the county police, Missouri Highway Patrol and Greitens’ office.
Protesters will be directed to an area in Poelker Park in downtown St. Louis across from City Hall, she said. Krewson called protesting a "cornerstone of our democracy," but said law enforcement will stop unlawful behavior.
"Anyone intent on violence or vandalism toward people or property will be arrested," Kewson said. "These actions will be implemented in order to keep everyone safe."
Police, National Guard at the ready
Greitens signed an order Thursday “will allow the National Guard to take the necessary steps to be prepared to help if they are needed,” he said in a statement.
"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,” Greitens said.
The statement also said the National Guard will need time to organize its people and equipment before the verdict is announced.
The St. Louis police also announced that officers would start working 12-hour shifts Friday. Doing so, the department said, will make it "ready for any events that may unfold and to ensure a safe environment for our community."
- A few area school districts sent out reminders about early dismissal procedures as preparations ramped up. The Riverview Gardens School District mentioned the impending verdict, and Kirkwood School District officials said they don't expect problems during the school day, but said staff members and teachers have been given materials to help discuss issues surrounding the trial.
St. Louis Public Radio’s Camille Phillips contributed to this report.
Original story from Sept. 12
Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens met with clergy members in St. Louis on Monday as the region awaits a verdict in the murder trial of a former St. Louis officer.
Greitens said neither he nor the two dozen pastors with whom he met with want to see violence if Jason Stockley is acquitted in the 2011 shooting death of Anthony Lamar Smith. It’s not clear when the judge will announce the verdict, but Greitens and other politicians and organizations have spent the past week addressing activists’ promises to protest.
“We know this verdict has the potential to hurt many people,” Greitens said after the meeting, which lasted a couple of hours. “But all of us have to try very hard not to let what we believe crowd out compassion for the beliefs of others. We have to listen to those who are angry.”
Greitens compared his conversation to how his predecessor, Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon, handled the case of former Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in 2014. Nixon met with clergy members and civic leaders after Michael Brown was killed, and reached out to clergy the night before it was announced Wilson would not be charged.
“We want to find ways to work together, and we’re doing so proactively, rather than reacting to a situation that comes to us,” Greitens said.
Clergy members delivered a letter to the judge on Friday, urging a just verdict and warning that anything but a guilty verdict “will make you liable for any ensuring unrest or acts of aggression.”
“In biblical terms, ‘the blood will be on your hands,’” the letter, signed by 17 clergy members, said.
The Ethical Society of Police, the organization that represents St. Louis’ officers of color, also called on Wilson to find Stockley guilty in a YouTube video Tuesday.
“Over the course of that investigation, there were several things that we found alarming, that violated policy, that led us to believe that [Stockley’s] actions were that of someone that had committed murder, that he wasn’t defending himself in the line of duty,” Ethical Society president Sgt. Heather Taylor said. “So collectively as a board, we came to the decision that we need to support a conviction of Jason Stockley for murder.”
A statement on the Ethical Society’s website highlights those concerns, including the evidence that Stockley’s DNA is was the only DNA on the weapon found in Smith’s car.
“We shouldn’t even be in a position to wonder whether or not Jason Stockley is going to be found guilty or innocent. That in and of itself speaks to the need for us to do the work that we need to do on behalf of the communities we serve and the communities we come from,” said former St. Louis officer Redditt Hudson, who now helps lead the National Coalition of Law Enforcement Officers for Justice, Reform and Accountability.
Not everyone was impressed with Monday’s meeting. Linden Bowie, the president of the Missionary Baptist Convention of Missouri, said he believes Greitens is sincere about trying to avoid a repeat of the property destruction and violence in Ferguson.
“But I want to push back on the fact that whenever people outside of our community want to try to deal with issues within our community, they have a select group of people that they go to and thinking that if I push these buttons, it’s going to take place,” Bowie said. “Those days are gone.”
Bowie urged the governor to meet with and listen to protest leaders who are still seeking to be heard. One of them, state Rep. Bruce Franks, D-St. Louis, made the same suggestion in a Facebook Live video later Monday.
"The first thing you want to do is meet with clergy. There's a distinct difference between what the church used to be and what it is now,” Franks said. “You ain't meeting with the folks who've been pepper-sprayed, tear-gassed ...”
Greitens said he “wanted to reach out to as many people as possible,” but spokesman Parker Briden didn’t return calls asking whether that meant he would be willing to meet with young activists.
The city’s business and political leaders are also hoping for calm if Stockley, who is white, isn’t convicted in the death of Smith, who was black.
St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson released a YouTube video last Tuesday saying she also wanted to keep talking to people about the “history and policies that have shaped the St. Louis area and privileged some over others.”
And the St. Louis Regional Chamber’s president, Joe Reagan, echoed the mayor’s request in a letter last week, asking people to “take a moment to listen to someone who views the verdict differently than you do. Either way, we ask everyone to respect the right for all Americans— even those we disagree with — to assemble and be heard.”
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