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St. Louis Protests Ex. Officer Being Found Not Guilty of Shooting Anthony Smith. Aired 12-1:30a Et

Aired September 16, 2017 - 00:00   ET


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: It is the top of the hour. This is our breaking news. Hours of protest in St. Louis after an ex-officer is found not guilty in the shooting death of a black man. This is CNN Tonight, I'm Don Lemon. Thank you for joining us.

I want to get you up now live. Protests are beginning to break up after a judge found a former police officer, Jason Stockley, not guilty of first degree murder in the 2011 shooting death of a 24-year- old black man, Anthony Lamar Smith.

Stockley shot and killed Smith after a police chase over a suspected drug deal. Stockley said in acted in self-defense and believed Smith was reaching for gun in his car. The shooting was captured on police dash cam as well as an internal video camera and cell phone video.

Again, our breaking news this evening here on CNN. Protesters are out in the streets of St. Louis tonight. The situation has been tense all evening after a judge acquitted a former police officer of first degree murder in the shooting death of a black man.

Ryan Young has been out among the protesters all evening. He joins us now with the very latest. Ryan, it appears to be different than when we saw you last.

RYAN YOUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Completely different. Look, we started this 11:30 this afternoon, walking with these protesters. They were down by city hall originally. Then we can hear the group talking about making a move into a community. They wanted to come to the suburbs.

Well, when you look at this, Don, you can see that's exactly what they wanted to do and they completed that mission. If you look down that way where that shining light is, that's where the rest of those officers are right now.

In fact, they want this street closed, so they're flashing the light back this direction telling people they cannot pass. They have buses and they are ready to load the officers back up once they deem this neighborhood safe again.

I want to say something that's kind of interesting because you had the mayor who actually tweeted out that he was not in agreeance with this decision, but despite that protesters marched to his house, right down the street here, we were marching with them not realizing where we were going. We got in front of his house, they were obviously demanding for

someone to come out and then someone started throwing something in the window. We were all shocked at that point because up until then, it had remained peaceful. People had been protesting all night. Even though they were carrying firearms, some of them, there was no back and forth with people as they walked through the streets.

There were people at some of the restaurants handing water to the protesters as they walked by. People coming off their porches kind of celebrating them as they walked. This was a multinational group. Look, we walked by the hospital, Don, and an ambulance was coming, people who were protesting got out of the way of that ambulance and allowed it to come through.

So you saw some humanity on both sides there, where they just wanted their voices heard. And the police stayed back for most of the evening. But when we got to this street and this neighborhood and when that rock went through that window, everything changed.

The police gathered themselves together. They got into a phalynx and they started saying, "Move back, move back, move back." And then we saw some in that group of protesters decide they were going to continue to taunt these officers.

And we saw the professionalism on their side in terms of allowing that gas to sort of seep out at first and that kind of punched some of the people back. They decided they didn't want to deal with that. There were other people who decided they wanted to try to throw that back toward the officers. That's when they allowed a little more gas to come out and I tell you, at that point, we were all choking, so we were trying to get away.

It took about a half hour for those people to get away and to kind of walk away from this situation. We've seen undercover police officers returning to the scene, because we've seen them walking amongst us. This neighborhood and people have been preparing for this for quite some time. We've seen them put boards up against windows, getting ready for this decision. I don't think people thought it was going to end as violent as it did. It kind of put a black eye on something that was very peaceful for most of the evening. Don?

LEMON: All right. Ryan, thank you very much. We'll get back to Ryan in just a moment. Let me get to Dan Simon in St. Louis for us. Dan, you're -- last time we checked with you, you were on the other side of where Ryan is. What's happening now, what's the situation?

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, hey, Don. Just a few protesters left on the street, but I can tell you, there's still a whole lot of cops here. And people may be leaving but I can guarantee you that police will be out here throughout the night, making sure that things don't further get out of control. They seem to have done an effective job in getting the crowd to disperse but you can see they're still in full right here. They're continuing to push whatever is left of the protesters down the street. And I tell you what, we did see a lot of tension earlier today and tonight. And as I said before, it's unsettling when you see protesters,

especially the guys wearing the masks, when you see them armed, it gets your attention. And I'm sure police are very weary of those folks, but the bottom line is while we did see some vandalism tonight, we did see police deploy their pepper spray, if that is the extent of it, I think the folks at city hall will be pretty pleased with that.

We haven't seen any fires. We haven't see a lot of vandalism other than to the mayor's house. We did see some folks burn some American flags, but as of right now, I think we have to hand it to police. They've done a pretty good job thus far keeping this crowd under control, at least to some extent, Don.

LEMON: All right. Dan Simon, thank you very much. I appreciate that. I want to bring back Jeff Roorda, Mark O'Mara, Neill Franklin, and joining us, CNN Legal Contributor, Areva Martin as well.

Areva, welcome to the panel. First of all, let's talk about what's happening out in the streets, the protesters, now it -- this whole situation seems to be simmering down. Police have it under control, it looks like the protesters are going home. Just your assessment of what's happening on the street before I talk to you about the case.

AREVA MARTIN, CNN LEGAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, Don, I've been in contact -- as you know, I'm from St. Louis. This is my community. This is my hometown. So I've been in contact with relatives and friends throughout the week as they were bracing for this verdict. So I've been getting text messages all day as these protests were taking place, and I was hearing just what your reporters were saying, which is essentially that these were very organized and very peaceful protests.

But look, this is a community that's very angry. This is happening on the heels of the Michael Brown shooting case and the whole Ferguson incident is very fresh in the minds and in the hearts of people that live in St. Louis. And they did not expect for a judge to find that this officer was not guilty. And more importantly, some of the comments that were made in his order.

And I know your earlier program, some of your commentators talked about it, but that comment that the judge made about urban heroin dealers, that it would be an anomaly that they wouldn't have a gun or that an urban heroin dealer wouldn't have a gun.

We know that the word urban is code for black, code for African American. And when the residents heard that comment, I think that just added salt to the wounds. And this community is asking when, whenever will a white officer that shoots and kills an African American be held accountable?

LEMON: Well, just as a point of...

MARTIN: And it's just a lot of frustration tonight.

LEMON: Well, just as a point of fact, I mean your thoughts are your thoughts, but as I heard some people discussing this. I mean we have a heroin epidemic in this country that's happening across the board in all backgrounds, in all neighborhoods, in all racial economic ratios. And so it's not -- you know, heroin is not just an urban problem. Heroin is an American problem at this point.

Jeff, I want to -- I want to go to you and I want to talk to you about the reports you're getting from your sources tonight as we watch the situation unfold in St. Louis. What are you hearing?

JEFF ROORDA, ST. LOUIS POLICE OFFICER ASSOCIATION: You have two officers on the way to hospital, one, hit in the head with a brick, the other fell and dislocated his shoulder trying to aid the other officer as I understand it -- I'm hearing that these protests are not over but are moving.

I heard they're moving north up Euclid and there was still a lot of property damage occurring. You know, we've played a Whack-A-Mole all day with these protests with them being in various places downtown and then now, in various neighborhoods in the Central West End. So I'm not certain this is over and I -- I hope it is. I hope people are going home but I'm worried that it's not over.

LEMON: Can you see air? Can you see our air, Neill? I mean -- I'm sorry, Jeff. Jeff, can you see...


ROORDA: No, I don't have a monitor.

LEMON: I live right on this corner, which is interesting, because this is Straub's and it's right on the corner it's at Lindell and Euclid and it's right, you know, near the hospital and it's right in the Central West End. And this is very sort of hip neighborhood, young-ish...

ROORDA: Right.

LEMON: That has been revitalized at least within the last 10 years or more since I've lived in St. Louis. And this is where the young folks go, besides here, you know, maybe downtown a little bit further on a Friday and Saturday evening.

And if you -- you know, and if you go a little bit behind where you see Straub's is there towards the south, the neighborhood starts to change a little bit and if you go north, you're getting, you know, a different situation, closer to the interstates there. But I have to tell you, Jeff, if they were going to cordon our protesters, this is kind of a good place to do it because they got the park in the middle and it sort of lends itself to doing that.

ROORDA: Yes, it's a -- it's a very trendy neighborhood. It is sort of boxed in by the park and then there are several hospitals on that main drag there that take up a big footprint. But, you know, what we saw in Ferguson, Don, you remember this very well. Those late evening protests that turned violent. The agitators in the crowd would sort of disappear into a neighborhood and reemerge, kind of outflank the police, kind of use the cover of darkness to pop off shots or to throw bricks.

I'm getting reports -- just a few seconds ago, they're now throwing lit road flares at the police. So this -- you know, while there was plenty of people, hundreds of people today that protested peacefully, what we have now is more reminiscent of Ferguson and is volatile. And hopefully, the cops will continue to do the great job they're doing to tamp that down.

LEMON: Listen, you have your sources. We're not -- that's not CNN's reporting. Again, that's what Jeff Roorda is hearing. We have not seen that. We have not witnessed it and have not been able to verify it. But stand by, I want to bring in David Swerdlick now, who's a CNN Political Commentator and an Associate Editor at the Washington Post.

Today, David, the Justice Department as we watch these pictures announced it is significantly -- significantly scaling back a program created during the Obama administration to help reform local police departments after controversial incidents like police shooting.

The program is voluntary. What can you tell us? Wouldn't police departments, I would think, maybe I'm wrong, want to voluntarily figure out how they can make their relationships with the community better?

DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, Don, a couple of things. First of all, when we've seen all the incidents of police violence and police not being found guilty in cases where there's been police violence, whether you're talking about Samuel DuBose in Cincinnati, Walter Scott in North Charleston, whether you're talking about the case we're talking about tonight, whether you're talking about Eric Garner in New York City, the list goes on and on.

You would think that there would at least be consensus around the idea that the Justice Department and police departments around the country should work closer hand in hand as was the case with this program under the Obama administration to try to find solutions that haven't been found yet to this problem.

I want to say something about the Trump administration. It's about a year ago that President Trump gave his law and order speech, Don, in Wisconsin, then a little later he gave his speech to African American voters in Gettysburg. In both of those speeches, he talked about getting tough on crime and being a law and order president. He also talked about being a president who was going to apply the law equally.

What we've seen with the Justice Department is that under Attorney General Sessions has been -- the reinstatement of Civil Asset Forfeiture, sort of a reinflation of the war on drugs, a push for increased sentencing, and now, today, the announcement that they're going to get rid of this COPS program, COPS is the acronym. A lot of people are asking tonight, myself included, is this what they have in mind when they say that they're going to have a law and order administration that applies justice across the board? It's not clear at all.

LEMON: Mike Shields is here. Mike Shields is a CNN Political Commentator and he joins us now. Mike, why would the Justice Department make this move given so many incidents that we've been seeing across the country?

MIKE SHIELDS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, look, I think that the Trump administration did run on being a law enforcement -- or a law and order administration, a law and order president. And I think that there are a great number of Americans that are very, very concerned about how the police are being treated when they're watching people throw things at the police and the police are being attacked when you have non-peaceful protests.

And I think that that -- I'm reflecting that's what -- what the voters think. I think that it's obviously a much, much deeper issue than that. And the unrest that's happening in St. Louis and in cities across the country as these trials move forward are something that I think we have to have a much larger national dialogue on into why people believe that they're being treated unfairly.

But one of the responses to what you see is a backlash from many Americans who are worried that police are targeted, that police are being assassinated, and the vast majority of police, they believe, are the kinds of people they saw in Houston that were rescuing people and taking care of them. And that's their vision of what law enforcement officers are. And that was reflected in the way that Trump ran for office, that we need to protect law enforcement officers, we need to move more in that direction and so that's why they're doing it. I think -- like I said, I think there's a much deeper issue than just looking at it very simply that way.

LEMON: All right.


LEMON: Yes, go ahead. Go ahead.

O'MARA: My concern is that when an agency is identified as having problems with the way they're policing, from back a few years ago, back 10 years ago, what we would do is DOJ would involve themselves with that agency in what's called a consent decree or a consent agreement to work with them.

And that was a way to try and fix identified and undeniable problems that exist in certain law enforcement agencies. We know it existed in Ferguson, for example, because once we looked at Ferguson, because of what happened with Mike Brown, then all of a sudden, we sort of uncovered the onion leaves and realized how difficult or how skewed low they were in the minority population in law enforcement.

Once DOJ had, in the past, identified those problemed police departments, then they would come in and help. What Jeff Sessions said several months ago and what was identified again by DOJ today was that they're going to go hands off on local law enforcement even if they have problems.

That is problematic. I agree that most cops are great cops and I would never want to be a cop to put my life on the line every day the way they do. But when we identify problem police departments, we have to have a federal oversight or federal overview of what they're doing and DOJ is now saying, hands off, take care of it yourself. And that is going to denigrate the interaction between law enforcement agencies and communities because we're not going to fix them with any type of federal oversight even when they need it.

LEMON: All right. I want to...


O'MARA: Don, wait. Don, can I go...

LEMON: Stand by. I got to get to the break. I got to get to the break. You'll be able to do it on the other side. We'll be right back with our breaking news.


LEMON: And we're back now with our live breaking news that's happening in St. Louis. Protests there marred by violence tonight. St. Louis Police Department tweeting, "A total of three of our officers have been injured within the last hour. Two transported, one refused treatment." The mayor of St. Louis, Lyda Krewson, tweeting this in response. "Officers injured, on the way to hospital, the violence is unacceptable."

The former officer who was found not guilty in the fatal shooting of Anthony Lamar Smith is speaking out tonight as well to the St. Louis Post Dispatch. I want you to listen to what Jason Stockley is saying.


JASON STOCKLEY: I did not murder Anthony Lamar Smith. I did not plant a gun. As I testified at trial, and to Homicide on the day of. There was an imminent threat to my life. I had to. It's -- taking of a life is the most significant thing that one can do. And it's not something that is done lightly. And it's not something that should ever be celebrated. And it's just a horrible experience altogether.

But sometimes, it's necessary. This was a completely reactionary event. If he takes off in car, we follow. He turns left, we turn left. And unfortunately, reacting in those few seconds, you have to make decisions based on limited information and limited time. And they're the most important decision you ever make because it could be your last.

And it's -- it's very stressful. And in the end, regardless of what happens, nobody wins. I do not remember stating that I was -- that we or I are going to kill this (beep) don't you know it.

The first time that I heard that was when I met with the FBI. And I gave them the same answer that I'm giving you know which was, I don't recall saying it, but I never denied it. I can tell you with absolute certainty that there was no plan to murder Anthony Smith during a high-speed vehicle pursuit. That's just not -- it's just not the case. And I wish that I could

tell you exactly what that was and what it meant, whether it was just heat of the moment or whether it was part of a larger conversation, I really don't -- I just don't remember.

I thought that Anthony Smith's car at the end at West Fourth and Acme had spun a complete 360 degrees or actually more to make it in the direction that it was. But when I watched the dash cam, I could see that it was just a 90-degree slide.

Again, it's insignificant, it has nothing to -- it doesn't change anything. It doesn't change the decision-making. It doesn't change how things are viewed or judged but it just shows that my memory is not perfect and neither is anyone else's.

What I found to be most surprising specifically from the cell phone videos that were released after my arrest was how many officers were near the vehicle while I was searching it for the weapon. I saw everything first person. So, you know, when I'm -- if I'm looking down, that's what I'm looking at. And I didn't have that type of view from above where you can actually see who's there, what are they doing.

But you can plainly see that there is no attempt to deceive from my actions. The driver side door is open. Window -- back windows were blown out from the crash. And people were looking in while I was in there.

It -- there was definitely no bizarre behavior in my mind at all. Almost every resisting of arrest doesn't have to be a fatal shooting. Every resisting looks bad. They never look good. So the -- what you have to separate are the optics from the facts. And if a person is unwilling to do that, then they're -- they've already made up their mind and the facts just don't matter.

And to those -- to those people, I -- there's nothing that I can -- I can do to change their minds. But any person, any reasonable person who looks at the fact of the case will realize that the -- that the optics are nothing but an illusion.

CHRISTINE BYERS, ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH: Why is it so important for you to be so open about this?

STOCKLEY: Because I didn't do anything wrong. If you're telling the truth and you've been wrongfully accused, you should be shouting it from a mountaintop. And which is why I have no problem -- besides the gag order that was put in place, I've never had a problem discussing the facts of this case with anyone that I'm allowed to discuss it with.

There's no question that this is off limits in terms of what occurred that day. As far as how I feel right now, I'm obviously currently pleased that there was a -- that the right verdict came down and it feels like a burden is lifted, but the burden of having to kill someone never really lifts.


LEMON: Former officer Jason Stockley speaking there to St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Christine Byers. That's it for us tonight. Thanks for watching. Natalie Allen picks up in Atlanta right after this. Good night.