(Reuters) - An independent counsel will investigate claims that evidence was withheld in connection with a 2012 civil suit over the fatal shooting of a black man by a St. Louis police officer, Missouri’s attorney general said on Monday
Attorney General Josh Hawley announced the move more than a week after a judge’s acquittal of former officer Jason Stockley on charges of murder for shooting Anthony Lamar Smith in 2011 sparked days of sometimes violent demonstrations in the city.
Smith’s family alleged in a Sept. 18 letter that officials, including some working under former Attorney General Chris Koster, withheld evidence in the wrongful death suit filed against the city in 2012, Hawley said in a statement.
Koster could not be immediately reached for comment on Monday. A spokeswoman for St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson declined to comment.
Smith’s family settled the suit for $900,000 in 2013, according to Al Watkins, an attorney for Smith’s fiancée, Christina Wilson.
Watkins told Reuters Monday that during the civil suit, staff from the attorney general’s office, then representing the city police, did not share certain evidence he requested including DNA test results and a bystander cell phone video he said was included in the criminal trial.
Watkins said lawyers representing the city told him they shared all the evidence they had.
The settlement could have been larger if all the evidence was available, said Watkins, who added that he may file a motion to reopen the suit and set aside the settlement.
“The attorney for the family of Anthony Lamar Smith has raised serious allegations of wrongdoing by the Koster administration,” Hawley said in a statement. “As Mr. Smith’s family states, these allegations deserve ‘a full, accurate, and transparent’ accounting.”
Smith tried to speed away from Stockley on Dec. 20, 2011, following an alleged drug deal, authorities said. During a car chase, Stockley could be heard saying in a police dashcam video that he was going to kill Smith, prosecutors said.
After the chase ended, Stockley approached Smith’s car and shot him five times, authorities said.
Stockley’s lawyers said he fired in self-defense, believing Smith was reaching for a gun. But prosecutors said the only gun recovered from the scene had only Stockley’s DNA on it.
Stockley left the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department in 2013.