September 16, 2017 19:50 GMT by nytimes.com

St. Louis Faces More Protests Over Ex-Officer’s Acquittal in Killing

St. Louis Faces More Protests Over Ex-Officer’s Acquittal in Killing

Demonstrators marched through a mall a day after violent protests over the acquittal of Jason Stockley, who was charged in the 2011 shooting of a black driver.

ST. LOUIS — On edge after a night of protests that led to dozens of arrests and a broken window at the mayor’s home, this city was bracing on Saturday for more demonstrations after the acquittal of a white former police officer who shot and killed a black driver.

Businesses and community groups announced closings, cancellations and postponements after protests ran deep into the night on Friday, and demonstration leaders, outraged by the acquittal, said more marches were planned.

Tensions here have seemed especially high, in part because the region has been at the center of the nation’s debate over how the police treat black people. Unrest erupted three years ago in Ferguson, about 10 miles north, after another police shooting.

On Saturday morning, about 200 people gathered in a park in University City, outside St. Louis, preparing to march. Joan Bray, 72, a former state lawmaker who was in the crowd, said she was distressed “that the verdict was so inevitable,” adding, “It’s so sided to the police.”

Protesters converged on West County Center, a suburban mall about 20 miles from St. Louis. At the mall, which was also a site of Ferguson protests, demonstrators chanted, “You can’t stop revolution” and “No justice, no profits.”

A few stores closed their security gates but reopened after the demonstrators had passed. Police officers stood indoors nearby.

The band U2 canceled a concert scheduled for Saturday night at the Dome at America’s Center in St. Louis because the city’s police department could not provide enough officers for security, a statement on the band’s website said.

“We cannot in good conscience risk our fans’ safety by proceeding with tonight’s concert,” the statement with Live Nation, the concert promotion company, said. It called the cancellation “the only acceptable course of action in the current environment.”

Other local events were also canceled or postponed. PeaceFest, which was planned for the campus of Harris-Stowe State University on Saturday, was postponed until Oct. 28, and the university said its campus would be closed until Monday.

The St. Louis Symphony canceled a performance scheduled for Saturday.

Josh Hawley, the attorney general of Missouri, said in a statement that he expected the authorities to prosecute those who engaged in violence.

Early on Saturday, the St. Louis police described many of the demonstrations on Friday as peaceful, but said the mood had grown more tense after dark.

Officers gave orders for the crowd to disperse, and used tear gas and pepper balls, the police said, after demonstrators threw bricks and bottles at them.

Some protesters pelted a police bus with rocks, the police said, and at least four American flags were set on fire. Thirty-two people were arrested, though names and particular charges were not immediately released.

The authorities said that 11 law enforcement officers from several departments had been injured; none of the injuries were life-threatening.

Late on Friday night, about 1,000 protesters marched through the streets to the home of Mayor Lyda Krewson, where at least one window was shattered after something was thrown at it.

Within minutes, the police ordered protesters to disperse, and a long line of officers in riot gear arrived and marched toward the crowd, pushing protesters away. Other damage in the Central West End of the city included shattered windows at a public library and a popular tavern.

This region had been bracing for weeks for the outcome of the trial, in which Jason Stockley, a former St. Louis officer, had been charged with murder in the death of Anthony Lamar Smith, a driver he had been chasing.

Prosecutors, who had waited five years to charge Mr. Stockley in the 2011 shooting, described Mr. Stockley in court as an out-of-control officer who chased Mr. Smith for three miles at speeds of more than 80 miles an hour, shot him for no reason and then planted a .38-caliber revolver in Mr. Smith’s car.

Prosecutors pointed to Mr. Stockley’s remark to his partner, captured on a recording device inside the police car during the chase, as evidence of premeditation: “Going to kill this” person, Mr. Stockley had said, using an expletive, “don’t you know it.”

But Mr. Stockley’s defense lawyers said the officer had acted reasonably in fatally shooting a suspect in a drug deal that the officer had tried to stop before the car chase took place. Defense lawyers have said that the officer believed Mr. Smith was armed, and was reaching for a gun — the weapon that was found in his car after the shooting. Mr. Smith was shot five times.

The case, a bench trial, ended almost a month ago, but Timothy Wilson, a judge with the St. Louis Circuit, issued his verdict on Friday. Judge Wilson said he was “simply not firmly convinced of defendant’s guilt.”

The judge also voiced doubts, in his 30-page ruling, that a gun had been planted on Mr. Smith, writing “that an urban heroin dealer not in possession of a firearm would be an anomaly.”

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