Peaceful demonstrations in St. Louis turned violent Friday night after a former white police officer charged with the murder of a black man was acquitted, prompting multiple assaults of law enforcement officers, property damage — including the mayor’s home — and more than 30 arrests.
At least nine police officers, including one with a dislocated shoulder and another with a potentially broken jaw, were reported injured along with one Highway Patrol trooper, Acting Police Chief Lawrence O’Toole said in a video statement posted to the St. Louis Police Department’s Twitter page early Saturday morning.
Police were assaulted with bricks and bottles, officials said, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. In response, roughly 200 police officers donning riot gear attempted to clear the crowds with tear gas and, in total, 32 people were arrested throughout Friday, police spokeswoman Schron Jackson said Saturday, the paper reported.
“Many of the demonstrators were peaceful. However, after dark, many agitators began to destroy property and assault police officers,” O’Toole said in the video statement, alongside Mayor Lyda Krewson.
At one point, roughly 1,000 protestors converged on the mayor’s home, throwing rocks and bottles at the property, the Post-Dispatch reported. There was no evidence to suggest that Krewson was inside at the time.
Tension boiled over hours after circuit Judge Timothy Wilson found former St. Louis police offer Jason Stockley not guilty in the killing of Anthony Lamar Smith in December 2011. A court document said that Stockley and another police officer chased Smith, a drug suspect, in a car at more than 80 miles per hour and that he was “going to kill this motherf—er, don’t you know it” before instructing the driving officer to steer the car into Smith’s slowing vehicle.
Stockley then approached Smith’s car and fired into it five times, striking Smith “with each shot,” according to the document, killing him. Stockley then allegedly planted a gun in the car, the document states, as the firearm was later determined to have only Stockley’s DNA on it.
In his verdict, Wilson wrote that after “agonizingly” going over the case’s evidence, he was “simply not firmly convinced” of Stockley’s guilt.
Stockley in an interview with the Post-Dispatch Friday said that news of his clearance “feels like a burden has been lifted,” though “the burden of having to kill someone never really lifts.
“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,” Stockley added.
Mayor Krewson in a statement Friday said that she is “appalled” by what happened to Smith.
“I am sobered by this outcome,” she wrote. “I will continue my work to create a more equitable community.”
In addition to Krewson’s home, a public library and at least one local business was damaged during the protests.
The rock band U2 was scheduled to perform a concert Saturday night in the city but canceled after police told them they were not able to provide “standard protection.”
“In light of this information, we cannot in good conscience risk our fans’ safety by proceeding with tonight’s concert,” the band said in a statement. “As much as we regret having to cancel, we feel it is the only acceptable course of action in the current environment.”