As Jason Stockley and another officer pursued Anthony Lamar Smith through the streets of St. Louis, their police SUV reached speeds of more than 80 mph, according to a probable-cause statement.
During that December 2011 chase, Stockley was caught saying “going to kill this motherf—–, don’t you know it,” according to the court document, which also claims that Stockley told the other officer to hit Smith’s car as it slowed.
Stockley, prosecutors say, approached the driver side of Smith’s vehicle and fired several times, killing Smith.
Now, nearly 4½ years later, Stockley, who is white, is facing a criminal charge in the fatal shooting of Smith, who was black.
A charge of first-degree murder has been filed against Stockley, who left the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department in 2013, St. Louis Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce said in a news release.
The 35-year-old former officer now lives in Texas, according to the probable-cause statement, and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that he was arrested Monday and was being held without bail. A message left for his attorney was not immediately returned Tuesday morning.
“We believe we have the evidence we need to prove Mr. Stockley’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law,” Joyce said in a statement.
Smith was killed after what the Post-Dispatch described as a “suspected drug transaction and high-speed chase.” As Stockley and his partner pursued Smith’s vehicle, Stockley’s statements were captured on an internal police video, according to the prosecutor’s news release.
“As Smith’s car was slowing to a stop, Stockley is also heard telling the other officer to ‘Hit him right now,’ at which point the driver slams the police SUV into the victim’s car,” the release states. “Stockley then approached Smith’s car on the driver’s side and shot five times into the car, striking the victim Anthony Smith with each shot.”
A gun retrieved from Smith’s car was tested by a lab, but only Stockley’s DNA was found on the firearm, the release noted.
The shooting was investigated years ago, but charges weren’t filed at the time.
“I’m disappointed because I know what fine public servants the vast majority of police officers are, and this kind of conduct on the part of this former officer doesn’t reflect the excellent work I see from them every day,” Joyce told the Post-Dispatch. “So it’s disappointing in that regard, but it’s important that people understand that if you commit a crime, and we have the evidence to prove it, it doesn’t matter to us what you do for a living. Our job is to hold people accountable if we have the evidence. And in this case, we do.”
In March, investigators from the police department’s internal-affairs division got in touch with the circuit attorney’s office “to review the matter with additional evidence developed through both the SLMPD and the FBI,” the news release stated.
“Joyce believes she now has the evidence she needs to pursue charges,” it reads. “She will take this matter to a Grand Jury in the coming weeks for its review.”
The news that Stockley has been charged comes just weeks after activists pushed for action in the fatal 2011 shooting, the Post-Dispatch reported.
The Justice Department is also taking a look at the case, though the federal agency’s findings haven’t yet been released, according to the circuit attorney’s office.
“I just want the justice for my daughter,” Christina Wilson, the mother of Smith’s daughter, told KMOV-TV, a CBS affiliate.
The murder charge against Stockley was announced amid an ongoing national conversation around race, policing and criminal-justice reform, with activists and some law enforcement agencies taking a closer look at the use of force and officer-involved shootings. The national debate over police tactics raged following the 2014 death of Michael Brown, an 18-year-old African American who was fatally shot by a white officer in Ferguson, Mo., a St. Louis suburb.
On Tuesday, Justice Department officials announced that they will conduct a broad review of the practices and policies at the North Charleston Police Department, where a former officer is facing murder and civil rights charges in the fatal shooting of an unarmed black man during a traffic stop in the South Carolina city. The announcement comes less than a week after a former North Charleston police officer, Michael Slager, was indicted on a civil rights charge in the April 2015 shooting of Walter Scott.
A Washington Post database project found that more than 900 people were fatally shot by police in the United States in 2015. More than 360 fatal police shootings have been recorded in The Post’s database this year.
The Post-Dispatch noted:
One of the first cases Joyce prosecuted was a second-degree murder charge against a former city police officer for the 1999 beating death of a burglary suspect on the roof of a pawnshop. A jury acquitted the officer, Robert Dodson.
“The conviction rate on these cases nationally is 10 percent, and very rarely are they charged because of how laws are set up, and it’s rare to get a guilty verdict,” Joyce said.
In a statement, Police Chief Sam Dotson called Joyce’s decision “the culmination of years of investigative work.”
“The department spent countless hours on this case, all in an effort to ascertain the true facts of what occurred on December 20, 2011,” Dotson said in the statement. “I hold my officers to the highest standards. Stockley’s actions were in no way representative of the dedicated service of the men and women who serve on this department.”
Matt Zapotosky contributed to this report, which has been updated.