U.S. News

Factbox: In U.S. police killings of black men, law generally sides with officers

(Reuters) - The acquittal on Friday of a white former St. Louis police officer in the 2011 shooting death of a black man is the latest in a nationwide series of racially tinged police killings that mostly ended in the exoneration of the officers involved.

Protesters fall as they are pushed back by police in riot gear during a protest after a not guilty verdict in the murder trial of former St. Louis police officer Jason Stockley, charged with the 2011 shooting of Anthony Lamar Smith, who was black, in St. Louis, Missouri, U.S., September 15, 2017. REUTERS/Lawrence Bryant

The former St. Louis officer, Jason Stockley, 36, was acquitted by Circuit Judge Timothy Wilson of first-degree murder in the killing of Anthony Lamar Smith, 24, prompting hundreds of protesters to take to the city’s streets to voice their anger.

Similar protests, some of them violent, followed police killings of other African-American men and the news that the officers involved would face no legal consequences.

Here are five recent cases:


The shooting of unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, near St. Louis, on Aug. 9, 2014 sparked nearly two weeks protests and rioting that subsided at the family’s urging just before Brown’s funeral.

The case against the white officer, Darren Wilson, went to a grand jury, which decided on Nov. 24, 2014 not to indict him, sparking more street protests. The U.S. Justice Department also cleared him on March 4, 2015. Wilson is no longer with the Ferguson Police Department.


Accused of illegally selling individual cigarettes, Eric Garner, 43, died on July 17, 2014 after he was arrested in New York City’s Staten Island borough and put into a chokehold by New York City Police Officer Daniel Pantaleo, who is white. The encounter was captured on video.

Several street protests in New York and other cities followed news of the killing, and again five months later, on Dec. 3, when a grand jury did not return an indictment against Pantaleo, who is still with the NYPD.


In Baltimore, 25-year-old Freddie Gray was arrested on April 12, 2015 after police said he fled the scene unprovoked in a high crime area while in possession of an illegal switchblade.

After being transported in a police van, Gray was hospitalized unconscious and died on April 19 of what was determined to be a neck injury.

Gray’s injury and death while in police custody sparked several days of protests and rioting in Baltimore, prompting Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake to set a week-long curfew. As a result, the Baltimore Orioles were forced to postpone two home games against the Chicago White Sox, and played a third on April 29 in an empty stadium, unprecedented in Major League Baseball.

Six Baltimore police officers, including three who are black, where charged with Gray’s death. None were convicted, and the Justice Department subsequently decided not to bring charges against them.


While standing near his car in the middle of a street in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on Sept. 16, 2016, 40-year-old Terence Crutcher was fatally shot by police officer Betty Shelby, who is white. The shooting was captured on video from several angles.

The killing touched off protests in Tulsa and led the Tulsa County district attorney to charge Shelby with first-degree manslaughter on Sept. 22.

Earlier this year, on May 17, a jury acquitted Shelby of the charge. Shelby, who had been placed on administrative duty since the shooting, resigned from the Tulsa police force on July 14.


In North Carolina, 43-year-old Keith Lamont Scott was shot dead on Sept. 20, 2016 by Charlotte police Officer Brentley Vinson, who is also black. Police said Scott got out of his car carrying a handgun and refused orders to drop it. Scott’s wife, who was present, disputed the account.

The shooting sparked both peaceful protests and violent riots in Charlotte over two nights, resulting in several injuries and one death.

The district attorney determined on Nov. 30, 2016 that Vinson “acted lawfully,” and Charlotte-Mecklenburg police Chief Kerr Putney later ruled that he acted in accordance with department policy. Last month, a civilian review board in the city split evenly over Putney’s decision, the first time in the board’s 20-year history that it did not agree with the chief.

Reporting by Peter Szekely in New York; Editing by Frank McGurty and Cynthia Osterman