It’s a court verdict that could spark “Ferguson 2.0” in the St. Louis area — and Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens wasn’t taking any chances with the possibility of riots.
A judge on Friday morning announced he was acquitting a former St. Louis police officer of murder in a 2011 shooting, according to CNN, but even the night before, the state was getting ready.
According to KSDK-TV, Greitens activated the National Guard in anticipation of the verdict in the trial of St. Louis police Officer Jason Stockley, who was charged in the fatal shooting of a black suspect during a chase.
“As governor, I am committed to protecting everyone’s constitutional right to protest peacefully while also protecting people’s lives, homes, and communities,” Greitens said in a statement Thursday, according to KTVI-TV. “Taking the steps to put the Missouri National Guard on standby is a necessary precaution.
“The Missouri National Guard may be needed to help protect critical infrastructure and free up civilian law enforcement to protect people’s right to protest peacefully. These resources take time to get ready. The Missouri National Guard is preparing now to keep people safe.”
Activists have promised a wave of civil disobedience “that could include shutting down highways, airports or businesses,” KTVI noted.
Back in 2011, Stockley shot at the car of Anthony Lamar Smith, a man police were chasing after a suspected drug deal. Smith was killed. Stockley, who pleaded not guilty and waived his right to a jury trial, claims that Smith was reaching for a gun, but the only DNA found on the gun in Smith’s car was Stockley’s.
But for St. Louis Circuit Judge Timothy Wilson, prosecutors did not make their case against Stockley.
“This Court, in conscience, cannot say that the State has proven every element of murder beyond a reasonable doubt, or that the State has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant did not act in self-defense,” he wrote in the ruling, according to CNN.
Before the verdict, Christina Wilson, Smith’s fiancée, pleaded for nonviolence.
“However it goes, I ask for peace,” Wilson said at a Thursday new conference, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
However, given the rioting and looting in Ferguson in the aftermath of another police shooting just three short years ago, there’s every reason for Missouri residents to fear that “peace” is not in the cards after Wilson’s ruling.
Missouri doesn’t need a “Ferguson 2.0” — and neither does the rest of the country. The governor is making the right decision, particularly given how divisive the ruling is likely to be. We can only hope that whatever the verdict, peace and safety is preserved.
Greitens’ activiation of the National Guard is a step in the right direction.
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