St. LOUIS (CN) – Day two of a former St. Louis City police officer’s murder trial for the killing of Anthony Smith was highlighted by prosecutors questioning fellow officers who responded to the scene.
Jason Stockley, 36, who is white, is charged with first-degree murder and armed criminal action for the December 2011 shooting death of Smith, an African-American, following a police chase after a suspected drug deal.
First Assistant Circuit Attorney Robert Steele asked former city police officer Jason Baumgartner why Stockley was allowed to return to his police SUV and search Smith’s silver Buick without wearing gloves and why the other responding officers did not give Smith first aid at the scene.
Stockley’s DNA, not Smith’s was found on the revolver found in Smith car, according to police reports. The DNA was under a screw on the gun’s handle, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
Stockley told investigators he had unloaded the revolver as a safety precaution, and his attorneys argued that action could have transferred his DNA to the gun.
Baumgartner testified that police officers routinely handle and unload weapons they encounter and demonstrated from the witness stand how he checked the gun removed from Smith’s car and unloaded it. He said that unloading the gun requires a firm grip, to which Steele countered that it would take an equally firm grip to load it.
St. Louis Officer Elijah Simpson testified that he did not see or hear the shooting, nor did he see a gun when he lifted the airbag in Smith’s vehicle. Smith, one of the first officers on the scene, said that Stockley told him to “watch his hands,” when he approached Smith’s car, which he assumed meant Smith might have a gun.
Simpson, a probationary officer at the time, said he did not know crime scene preservation policies in 2011 for police shootings, but said such policies have changed since then and now require officers to be separated from the scene immediately after an incident, the Post-Dispatch reported.
Steele also questioned several officers about their characterization of the shooting scene as “hectic” and “chaotic” because of their reports to FBI agents that bystanders were shouting insults at cops, labeling them “murderers” and trying to get past yellow police tape to get closer to the crashed Buick and patrol SUV.
Prosecutors began the trial Tuesday by stating in opening arguments that Stockley had fired his “kill shot” at Smith from just 6 inches away and then planted a revolver in Smith’s car to justify the shooting. Smith had previously been convicted of gun and drug crimes.
Smith was shot five times – in the neck, upper chest and forearm and twice in his left flank.
During opening statements on Tuesday, Stockley’s lawyer, Neil Bruntrager, told the court that Stockley acted reasonably at the end of a “near-death” police chase to arrest a drug suspect who endangered the officers’ lives as well as innocent bystanders on St. Louis streets.
According to a probable cause statement attached to the first-degree murder complaint, Stockley shot into Smith’s car in north St. Louis on Dec. 20, 2011, then pursued him at more than 80 miles per hour.
“During the pursuit, the defendant is heard saying ‘going to kill this motherfucker, don’t you know it,’” according to the probable cause statement.