Jason Stockley

Republican Governor Eric Greitens has taken initial steps to activate the Missouri National Guard in anticipation of possible unrest in St. Louis. The move is to prepare for a judge’s decision in the murder trial of former St. Louis police officer Jason Stockley.

Is Greitens’s action a precaution or a sign of the approaching verdict? Activists have warned of mass disruption if Stockley, 36, is cleared of first-degree murder in the shooting death of Lamar Anthony Smith.

“As Governor, I am committed to protecting everyone’s constitutional right to protest peacefully while also protecting people’s lives, homes, and communities. Taking the steps to put the Missouri National Guard on standby is a necessary precaution,” says Greitens.

Greitens says the Missouri National Guard might be needed to help protect critical infrastructure and free up civilian law enforcement to defend people’s First Amendment rights. The governor says the resources take time to get ready.

Earlier this week, Greitens met with St. Louis clergy members and state officials to discuss safety and free speech measures involving the upcoming verdict.

Stockley’s attorney says his client was acting within the confines of the law when Anthony Lamar Smith, 24, was shot to death during a 2011 police chase. A prosecutor says Stockley shot Smith five times from close range and then planted a revolver in Smith’s car.

Barricades have been set up around two downtown courthouses and St. Louis city police headquarters in anticipation of St. Louis Circuit Judge Timothy Wilson’s verdict. St. Louis television station KMOV reports that judge could rule tomorrow.

Earlier stories:

Greitens considers using Missouri National Guard if chaos follows Stockley verdict

Bench trial underway in St. Louis for former officer charged with murder