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16 September 2017, 01:12 | Darnell Patrick
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Friday morning, Honorable Circuit Judge Timothy Wilson announced a not-guilty verdict in the trial of former St. Louis police officer Jason Stockley for the fatal shooting of Anthony Lamar Smith in December 2011. The officer, Jason Stockley, had maintained he shot at Anthony Lamar Smith five times because he thought Smith was reaching for a gun, but prosecutors argued Stockley planted the gun in Smith's Buick after it crashed.
In his ruling, Judge Timothy Wilson said state prosecutors had "failed" to prove the case against the officer, Jason Stockley, who had been facing a first-degree murder charge for killing Anthony Lamar Smith, 24, inside his vehicle after a chase. The officer plead not guilty to the crimes and made a decision to wave his right to a jury trial, giving full discretion to Judge Timothy Wilson to decide the outcome. She also offers prayers for police, the judge who issued the verdict and "citizens who find no comfort, or justice".
Stockley was the first officer in the St. Louis region to be charged for an on-the-job shooting since 2005.
In his testimony, Stockley denied firing any execution-style "kill shot" and defended the trips to the auto.
The judge also referred to Smith as an "urban heroin dealer" and said that it would not be "an anomaly" for him to possess a gun.
Hundreds of protesters are also marching through city streets.
St. Louis interim police chief Lawrence O'Toole addressed the public, urging those angered by Friday's court decision to protest peacefully. Bianchi reportedly informed Stockley that it appeared as if Smith was reaching for a weapon. Police officers who testified during the trial said they wouldn't take off gloves if they were about to handle evidence.
Greitens put the National Guard on standby in the days leading up to the verdict as a precautionary step ahead of possible unrest.
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St. Louis had waited with bated breath, restless and on edge, as it awaited the judge's ruling, as CNN notes.
On Aug. 1 - the first day of the trial - prosecutors laid out their argument, saying Stockley "executed" Smith after the chase, then planted a gun in the slain drug suspect's vehicle as an excuse for opening fire. Stockley's partner was driving the police SUV, which chased Smith at more than 80 miles per hour.
Gardner said she understands and appreciates "the many challenges that face our city's police officers".
At the end of the chase, Stockley opened fire only when Smith, still in his auto, refused commands to put up his hands and reached along the seat "in the area where the gun was", Bruntrager said.
With Bianchi at the wheel, the officers chased Smith at speeds of more than 80 miles per hour before the crash, according to the criminal complaint.
"The Court does not believe Stockley's conduct immediately following the end of the pursuit is consistent with the conduct of a person intentionally killing another person unlawfully", the judge said in his verdict.
Stockley's trial begins with a crowd of spectators so large several people have to be turned away.
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