U.S. News

St. Louis officer charged with 2011 murder of black man

(Note language in fifth paragraph that might offend some readers)

(Reuters) - A former St. Louis police officer was charged on Monday with first-degree murder for killing a black man in 2011 after a car chase, prosecutors said.

The charges come amid heightened scrutiny of police use of excessive force after killings of numerous unarmed black people triggered protests across the United States over the past two years.

Jason Stockley, 35, was arrested on Monday at his home in Houston, Texas by St. Louis police and the U.S. Marshals, St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Susan Ryan said.

Stockley, who is white, shot into Anthony Lamar Smith’s car on Dec. 11, 2011, sparking a high speed chase. Stockley was a passenger in a police SUV that chased the 24-year-old Smith at speeds reaching 80 miles per hour, a statement from the prosecutor’s office said.

Stockley’s vehicle crashed, and when they began pursuit again, Stockley can be heard saying on an internal police car video, “going to kill this motherfucker, don’t you know it,” prosecutors said.

Smith’s car began slowing to a stop when Stockley directed his partner to smash into Smith’s vehicle. Stockley then gets out of his car, walks toward the driver’s side of Smith’s vehicle and shoots him five times, the statement said.

“We believe we have the evidence we need to prove Mr. Stockley’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law,” St. Louis Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce said in a statement.

Stockley could not immediately be reached for comment.

Police told the local St. Louis Post Dispatch newspaper at the time that a weapon was recovered from Smith’s vehicle after the killing. The prosecutor’s office said the only gun recovered from the scene had only Stockley’s DNA on it.

Prosecutors at the time did not criminally charge Stockley, who left the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department in 2013, the statement said. Additional evidence uncovered by a police department and FBI investigation was provided to prosecutors in March and led to Monday’s charges, the statement said.

The St. Louis Post Dispatch reported that Smith’s family filed a federal wrongful death lawsuit against the city over the killing, which settled in 2013 for $900,000, the largest such settlement from a police shooting in the city’s history.

Reporting by Curtis Skinner in San Francisco; Editing by Andrew Hay