St. Louis faith leaders leading service in midst of unrest

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ST. LOUIS — Faith leaders in St. Louis are reaching out to try to help the area heal in the midst of racial unrest that has surfaced for the second time in three years after fatal police shootings.

Roman Catholic Archbishop Robert Carlson was scheduled to lead an outdoor interfaith service Tuesday afternoon in downtown St. Louis with the assistance of other Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders.

Monday was the fourth straight day of protests following a judge’s not-guilty ruling Friday in the first-degree murder trial of Jason Stockley, a white former St. Louis police officer who fatally shot 24-year-old black drug suspect Anthony Lamar Smith in 2011. More than 150 people were arrested. No organized demonstrations were planned for Tuesday, protest leaders said.

Smith’s mother, Anne Smith, was among the hundreds of people who attended a rally Monday night outside the jail in downtown St. Louis. Demonstrators chanted “free our people” to show solidarity for those jailed. On Sunday night, 123 people were arrested after a smaller group of protesters that remained on the streets after the more organized demonstrations wrapped up broke business windows downtown, smashed concrete pots and threw things at officers.

The unrest was reminiscent of three years ago, when sometimes-violent protests lasted for months after a white officer in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri, fatally shot 18-year-old Michael Brown, who was black and unarmed. Officer Darren Wilson was not charged but eventually resigned, and the shooting became a catalyst for the national Black Lives Matter movement.

The shooting of Smith by Stockley came after a chase on Dec. 20, 2011. Stockley, 36, testified he felt endangered because he saw Smith holding a silver revolver when Smith backed his car toward the officers before speeding away, prompting the chase.

Prosecutors said Stockley planted a gun in Smith’s car after the shooting. The officer’s DNA was on the weapon but Smith’s wasn’t. Dashcam video from Stockley’s cruiser recorded him saying he was “going to kill this (expletive).” Less than a minute later, he shot Smith five times.

Stockley’s lawyer dismissed the comment as “human emotions” during a dangerous pursuit.

Stockley left the police department and moved to Houston three years ago.