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Ex-St. Louis cop Jason Stockley acted "heroically" after fatally shooting a suspect, a police union spokesman says.
Police union spokesman Jeff Roorda blasted Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce this afternoon, claiming that she's only prosecuting a cop for murder because it raises her profile and panders to activists.
He also announced the police union had made a vote of "no confidence" in the city's top prosecutor.
“She has failed this city when it comes to prosecuting the criminals that now own the streets and many neighborhoods in a city that has now led the nation in homicides two years running, but when a high-profile case comes along where the victim is a person of means or the accused is a public figure, Miss Joyce grabs her makeup compact and bellows, ‘Alright, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my closeup!’” says Roorda, business manager for the St. Louis Police Officers’ Association.
Joyce announced charges last week against former officer Jason Stockley, who opened fire on 24-year-old Anthony Lamar Smith in December 2011 following a high-speed chase in north city. Stockley was on duty, riding shotgun with Officer Brian Bianchi when they allegedly saw Smith in the midst of a drug deal. During the chase that followed, Stockley was caught on a dashcam recording saying, “I’m going to kill that motherfucker, don’t you know it,” prosecutors claim. He’s also heard ordering Bianchi to “hit him right now” moments before Bianchi slammed the police cruiser into Smith’s rental car, which was stopped, according to prosecutors.
Stockley, who had earlier been seen with his personal AK-47 assault rifle, hopped out of the squad car, approached the rental and fired five shots from his service weapon, killing Smith.
City police originally ruled the shooting a “justifiable homicide,” and neither Joyce nor the U.S. Attorney’s Office chose to file charges. She has said investigators from a police Internal Affairs unit and the FBI brought her new evidence in March, pushing the case forward.
But Roorda claims she’s lying.
“There are no new facts,” Roorda told reporters at news conference on Monday. “The only thing new is how the post-Ferguson political environment impacts prosecutors more interested in appeasing protesters than they are in the pursuit of justice.”
The police union and the statewide Fraternal Order of Police are asking Joyce to hand the case over to an independent prosecutor.
In Roorda’s eyes, cops are under siege in the days since Ferguson Officer Darren Wilson fatally shot an unarmed Michael Brown, sparking widespread protests and the Black Lives Matter movement. He dismissed the recording of Stockley’s “going to kill this motherfucker” comment as nothing more than what millions of commuters say everyday when another driver cuts them off in traffic. (Most of those commuters, of course, don’t later kill the other drivers by firing five shots from close range.)
Roorda also took aim at Joyce’s revelation that a lab analysis of a revolver recovered from Smith’s car showed only Stockley’s DNA on the weapon — one possible implication being that the officer planted the gun to bolster his claim of self-defense.
Roorda claims Bianchi had seen the gun in the passenger seat of Smith’s car at the beginning of the chase. As for the DNA analysis, he says it’s common to find traces of one person and not another.
“It wasn’t evidence of wrongdoing before the Ferguson riots, and it isn’t evidence now,” Roorda says. “The Circuit Attorney is simply pandering to those who burnt, looted and rioted in the streets of Ferguson and the Shaw neighborhood.”
Video of Stockley going back and forth between the squad car and the rental shows him taking first-aid bandages to Smith, not planting a gun, Roorda says.
“Stockley then heroically returns to his squad car to retrieve first aid supplies to try to save the life of the man who just tried to take his life,” the union spokesman says. “It is unthinkable that the prosecutor would try to morph Stockley’s heroic actions into some far-fetched theory of the shooting where Stockley went back to his car to get a gun to plant on the suspect, particularly when the video shows conclusively that simply didn’t happen.”
Roorda hasn’t seen the video but says it was described to him by people close to the investigation.
A spokeswoman for the Circuit Attorney referred the Riverfront Times
to Joyce’s previous statement
regarding similar allegations Roorda had made in a Friday press release.
“The fact is that nothing affects my decisions as a prosecutor other than the evidence and the law,” Joyce says in the statement. “Over the years, I have prosecuted some police officers, and have declined to prosecute others. Those who are trying to spin an alternative narrative regarding my actions will certainly fail in the minds of reasonable people.”
Joyce didn't have anything to say about Roorda’s latest comments, the spokeswoman says.
Stockley resigned from the force in 2013. He was arrested a week ago at his Houston home by members of his old department and U.S. Marshals. The Army veteran and West Point grad waived extradition and was arraigned on Monday in St. Louis.
Others have also questioned the timing of the charges.
Defense Attorney Albert Watkins, who represented Smith’s young daughter in a successful civil suit against the city, told the RFT
he saw the bulk of the evidence against Stockley back in 2012. He claimed there was plenty there for a successful conviction. Former Chief Dan Isom, who ran the department at the time of the shooting, also says the facts of the case haven’t changed in the past four years, telling the St. Louis Post-Dispatch
he didn’t believe there was any new evidence.
But neither current police Chief Sam Dotson nor the FBI have challenged Joyce's account of new evidence or the sequence of events leading up to the charges.
Roorda describes Stockley as the victim of a “vanity prosecution.” His arrest on “flimsy” charges long after prosecutors had initially passed on the case was a complete shock, he says.
“Just imagine the mental anguish that Officer Stockley is going through,” Roorda says.
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