St. LOUIS (CN) — A former St. Louis police officer whose acquittal on a murder charge last September led to protests sued the city’s former circuit attorney and an internal affairs detective Wednesday for malicious prosecution and defamation.
Jason Stockley, who now lives in Texas, brought a federal complaint against former Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce and Lt. Kirk Deeken.
Stockley claims Joyce’s decision to charge him in the shooting death of a suspected drug dealer in 2011 was made to appease civil rights protestors and that Deeken made false claims to grand jurors that led to an indictment.
Stockley fatally shot Anthony Lamar Smith on Dec. 20, 2011, after a high-speed pursuit. It began when Stockley and his partner said they saw Smith involved in a drug deal.
Smith led officers on a 3-mile chase at up to 87 mph through city neighborhoods. Prosecutors claimed at trial that during the chase Stockley can be heard saying, “Going to kill this (expletive) don’t you know it,” on his in-car camera.
Joyce initially declined to prosecute the case, but later said she had new evidence that had surfaced from the shooting, which led her to file charges against Stockley in 2016.
Joyce had been targeted by protesters at her home in May 2015 over her refusal to charge another officer in an unrelated shooting. Police made arrests and used teargas to disperse the protesters.
Joyce announced she would not seek re-election before Stockley’s indictment. Current Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner oversaw the prosecution of Stockley, but is not named in the lawsuit.
”There was political pressure and someone had to be sacrificed,” Stockley’s civil attorney Dan Finney told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “This was an injustice for Jason Stockley, and for the black community.”
Joyce said in a statement Wednesday she believed her office had sufficient evidence to charge Stockley. She called the lawsuit “frivolous” and “designed to discourage prosecutors from considering charges against police officers for violating the law.”
Stockley says in the complaint that Deeken told the grand jury a puff of smoke can be seen rising from Smith’s window as Stockley fires a final shot, though Smith no longer was a threat, but that another officer was standing next to Stockley when the alleged shot was fired, and that officer testified at trial that he did not hear a shot fired.
Stockley claims in the lawsuit that the puff of smoke was most likely an officer’s breath in the cold air, and that the trial judge agreed when he found Stockley not guilty.
Stockley claims Deeken also told grand jurors that OnStar, a satellite-based service designed to help motorists in emergency situation, began recording in Smith’s car on its impact with Stockley’s and captured the sound of the alleged “kill shot,” as well as Smith saying, “Don’t shoot! Please don’t shoot.”
Prosecutors did not ask Deeken to testify about the recording at trial. Stockley claims it wasn’t mentioned because the recording began well after Smith was shot and did not actually capture those things.
In a deposition 10 months after the grand jury testimony, the Post-Dispatch reported that Deeken told prosecutors the tape is “poor quality” and recommended that it not be used at trial.