Murder Trial to Begin for Ex-St. Louis Police Officer Jason Stockley

IMAGE: Jason Stockley
Former St. Louis police Officer Jason Stockley in an undated photo.AP

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By Tim Stelloh

The trial of a former St. Louis police officer charged with what prosecutors have described as the calculated killing of a 24-year-old man six years ago will begin Monday.

Prosecutors allege that Jason Stockley, 36, was recorded on an internal camera during a high-speed pursuit saying he intended to kill Anthony Lamar Smith, before shooting him five times on Dec. 20, 2011.

Former St. Louis police Officer Jason Stockley in an undated photo.St. Louis Police Department / AP

Initial police reports said officers approached Smith, who was apparently involved in a drug deal behind a restaurant north of downtown St. Louis, when he fled, according to court documents obtained by NBC affiliate KSDK.

At one point, the station reported, Stockley could be heard in the video saying he was "going to kill this [expletive] — don't you know it."

When Smith's car slowed, prosecutors said later, Stockley instructed his partner, who was driving their SUV, to ram Smith's car.

"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," former St. Louis Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce said last year.

Related: Why It's So Difficult to Convict Police Officers in Fatal Shootings

Stockley, who had been with the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department for four years, told internal affairs investigators that he believed Smith was reaching for a handgun, according to police reports obtained by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Former St. Louis police Officer Jason Stockley is charged with one count of first-degree murder in connection with the shooting death of Anthony Lamar Smith after following a car chase in December 2011.KSDK

But Joyce said the only gun found in Smith's car bore Stockley's DNA.

Homicide detectives later determined that the shooting was justifiable, although federal and internal affairs investigations continued.

In 2013, the same year Stockley left the department, the Board of Police Commissioners settled a wrongful death suit with Smith's family for $900,000. In May 2016, Stockley was charged with first-degree murder; a grand jury indicted him in August.

Citing intense local media coverage, Stockley asked that the location of his trial be changed — a request Circuit Judge Timothy Wilson denied — and he opted to waive his right to a jury trial, court documents said.

Assistant Circuit Attorney Aaron Levinson criticized the move, saying police killings are "of particular interest to the public." Allowing a judge to rule over such "controversial" cases, he said, "creates a perception amongst the public that police officers accused of crimes get special treatment in our criminal justice system."

Stockley's attorney, Neil Bruntrager, didn't respond to a request for comment Sunday night.