Former St. Louis officer Jason Stockley, who was acquitted of murder last week in the fatal shooting of an African-American man, finally broke his months-long silence and maintained his innocence in the wake of the controversial verdict.
In an exclusive interview with the St. Louis Post–Dispatch, Stockley, 36, said he felt as if a burden had been lifted off him after a judge on Friday, Sept. 16, found him not guilty of the murder of 24-year-old Anthony Lamar Smith. The ex-officer fatally shot Smith after a high-speed police chase on Dec. 20, 2011 and was later charged with first-degree murder.
Prosecutors alleged that Stockley had planted a gun in the young man’s car to justify the shooting while the defense argued that the then-officer fired at Smith because he thought he saw him reaching for a gun.
“I did not murder Anthony Lamar Smith. I did not plant a gun,” Stockley told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch hours after his acquittal. “… I can feel for, and I understand what the family is going through, and I know everyone wants someone to blame, but I’m just not the guy.”
St. Louis Circuit Judge Timothy Wilson filed his decision early Friday, immediately sparking protests in downtown St. Louis. The mostly peaceful rallies escalated into unrest by night, as protesters hurled objects at officers in riot gear and vandalized the home of Mayor Lyda Krewson. More than 80 people were arrested over the weekend and several officers were injured.
Amid the chaos, Stockley acknowledged that the “optics” of the shooting looked bad to investigators and the public. Video of the deadly encounter captured the former officer saying he was “gonna kill this motherf—-r” moments before shooting Smith five times.
“Every resisting (arrest) looks bad, it never looks good,” Stockley said. “But you have to separate the optics from the facts, and if a person is unwilling to do that, then they’ve already made up their mind and the facts just don’t matter.”
“The taking of someone’s life is the most significant thing one can do, and it is not done lightly and it’s not something that should ever be celebrated,” he added. “But sometimes, it’s necessary … My main concern now is for the first responders, the people just trying to go to work and the protesters. I don’t want anyone to be hurt in any way over this.”
The former officer reportedly became teary-eyed when asked why he agreed to sit down for the interview, doubling-down on his claim that he “did nothing wrong.”
“If you’re telling the truth and you’ve been wrongly accused, you should shout it from a mountaintop,” Stockley said.
Speaking with The Washington Post, Stokley’s attorney, Neil J. Bruntrager, said the Post-Dispatch interview was likely a “one and done” type situation. Bruntrager said the trial had left his client emotionally exhausted as “ill-informed and demonizing” people attacked him in the media.
The one thing Stockley wished he would’ve done differently on the day he killed Smith?
“Take the day off.”