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Demonstrators In St. Louis Plan To Continue Racially Charged Protests

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

It was a weekend of racially charged protests in the city of St. Louis.

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting) These racist cops have to go. Hey, hey. Ho, ho.

GREENE: The sound of demonstrators - they're reacting to the acquittal of a former police officer, Jason Stockley, in the shooting death of Anthony Lamar Smith. Stockley, the officer, is white. He claimed self-defense when he fired at Smith, who was black, after a pursuit in the St. Louis area back in 2011.

Wayne Pratt of St. Louis Public Radio has been covering these protests. And, Wayne, it sounds like things were still raging in the city last night, right?

WAYNE PRATT, BYLINE: There were some protesters downtown last night that did start breaking windows and causing some other property damage - also having some confrontation with officers. But it's worth pointing out that these demonstrations that have been going on during the day - that's really the organized part of the protesters' plans to cause some civil disobedience. And then once they disperse, it's been these groups that have hung around that have caused most of the damage that we have seen and heard during the past three nights.

GREENE: I see. So these are separate things. There are organizers who are organizing these events during the day. And then we see things get more out of control in the evening. Can you just step back for us for listeners who haven't been following this story closely? What is the case that led to all of this anger?

PRATT: Well, as you were mentioning, it dates back to 2011. That's when former officer Jason Stockley and his partner noticed what appeared to be a drug transaction in a fast-food restaurant parking lot. A chase ensued. The chase ended. Shots were fired by Stockley. And those shots killed Anthony Lamar Smith. And that's basically the crux of it.

There is a question about Anthony Lamar Smith not putting his hands up when asked to by officers and apparently reaching for a gun while he was in his car. That sparked the officer to start shooting his gun. And the DNA of Officer Stockley was found on the gun that was in the car. There's some question as to how that got there. And that's really at the heart of the case. The lawyers for Anthony Lamar Smith were suggesting that maybe that gun was planted. But as we know, Officer Stockley was found not guilty on Friday.

GREENE: OK. So he's found not guilty. And he, after years under a gag order, has now spoken out for the first time.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JASON STOCKLEY: It was an imminent threat to my life. I had to. And it's not something that is done lightly. And it's not something that should ever be celebrated. And it's just a horrible experience altogether. But, sometimes, it's necessary.

GREENE: What are you hearing there, Wayne?

PRATT: It's a former police officer defending his actions, proclaiming his innocence, saying that he was in line with procedures and did nothing wrong. That's what I'm taking from that interview. I believe it was with the newspaper here in town, The Post-Dispatch.

GREENE: And just briefly, I mean, we have many people, including Anthony Lamar Smith's family, who don't agree with that assessment. Do they have anywhere to turn legally now?

PRATT: They are hoping that, somehow, this can be appealed to the Missouri State Supreme Court. We're waiting to see if that is a legal option for them. And also, the Justice Department said they have looked into this, but they don't plan to really investigate it any further. They say there's not enough evidence to move forward.

GREENE: Wayne Pratt of St. Louis Public Radio - Wayne, thanks.

PRATT: Thanks, David. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.