Governor Eric Greitens has not taken the National Guard off the table to de-escalate possible disorder when a verdict is announced in a former St. Louis police officer’s trial. Activists have threatened mass disruption in downtown St. Louis, at the airport and a Cardinals game if Jason Stockley, 36, is cleared of first-degree murder.
“We’re going to protect people’s constitutional rights and we’re going to protect public safety,” says Greitens. “In order to do both of those things, protect everybody’s constitutional rights and to protect public safety, we will use every tool at our disposal.”
A prosecutor says Stockley shot Anthony Lamar Smith, 24, five times from close range during a 2011 police chase and then planted a revolver in Smith’s car. Stockley’s attorney says his client was acting in self-defense.
Greitens, a Republican, has criticized former Gov. Jay Nixon and Attorney General Chris Koster, both Democrats, for the way they handled turmoil in Ferguson after Michael Brown, Jr. was shot to death in 2014. Greitens has said there could have been peace on the second night if leadership would not have failed the people. Police officers and National Guard soldiers were armed with military equipment during protests in Ferguson.
“We’re going to go out and make sure that we’re protecting people who are peacefully protesting,” says Greitens. “There’s a big difference, though, between someone who’s peacefully protesting and engaging in vandalism or someone who is peacefully protesting versus somebody who is going to assault a law enforcement officer or assault one of their fellow citizens.”
Two downtown courthouses and St. Louis city police headquarters have barricades set up around them in anticipation of St. Louis Circuit Judge Timothy Wilson’s verdict. When Wilson will rule is unknown.