Protesters fill St. Louis streets after ex-cop acquitted of murdering black man

By Valerie Volcovici and Kenny Bahr

ST. LOUIS (Reuters) – Hundreds of protesters poured into St. Louis streets on Friday, and some briefly scuffled with police, after a Missouri judge acquitted a former white police officer of murder in the 2011 fatal shooting of a black man suspected of dealing drugs.

With National Guard troops placed on standby, authorities urged calm in the aftermath of a case reminiscent of the circumstances that spawned racially charged unrest in the nearby suburb of Ferguson, giving rise to the Black Lives Matter movement in 2014.

Police said several rocks and water bottles were thrown early on, and officers were seen in video footage and by eyewitnesses dousing at least five people with pepper spray near the courthouse.

The protests, while boisterous, were otherwise largely peaceful, with no serious injuries or acts of vandalism reported until late Friday night, when police said two officers were taken to a hospital after being struck by bricks.

“This violence wont’ be tolerated,” Missouri Governor Eric Greitens said on Twitter.

As night fell, police reported making at least 13 arrests.

One group of demonstrators tried to climb onto Interstate 40 but were blocked by police. Another group blocked an intersection by sitting down in the street for six minutes of silence.

After most protesters drifted away late on Friday, a smaller group of individuals police described as “agitators” lingered on the streets in an upscale neighborhood near the mayor’s home, taunting officers who arrived in riot gear by the busload.

Police fired volleys of tear gas as they ordered the crowd to disperse amid reports of windows being broken at one house.

PROSECUTORS SAID GUN PLANTED IN SMITH’S CAR

The outcry was prompted by Friday’s verdict, rendered five weeks after the conclusion of a non-jury trial, finding former city policeman Jason Stockley, 36, not guilty of first-degree murder in the shooting death of Anthony Lamar Smith, 24.

Smith was shot five times in his car after trying to flee Stockley and his partner on Dec. 20, 2011, following an alleged drug deal, authorities said.

During the pursuit, Stockley could be heard saying on an internal police car video he was going to kill Smith, prosecutors said.

At Stockley’s direction, his partner, who was driving, slammed the police cruiser into Smith’s vehicle and they came to a stop, court documents said. Stockley then approached Smith’s car and opened fire with his service weapon.

The former policeman believed Smith…

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