With courthouse barricades up, police presence expanded and National Guard troops on standby, St. Louis is braced for Friday’s anticipated verdict in the murder trial of a white police officer accused of killing a black motorist.
Former St. Louis police Officer Jason Stockley maintains the 2011 shooting death of Anthony Lamar Smith was in self-defense. If he is acquitted of a first-degree murder charge, officials fear the inevitable protests could turn violent. Some activists have hinted as much.
Christina Wilson, Smith’s fiancée, appeared at a news conference with Gov. Eric Greitens Thursday evening to ask protesters to avoid violence if they demonstrate.
Earlier Thursday, Greitens — who won office last year in part on a promise not to repeat mistakes he says officials made in responding to the racial unrest in Ferguson in 2014 — announced he is readying the Missouri National Guard to protect both protesters and property.
Several areas schools have also cancelled classes for Friday in anticipation of possible protests and rioting.
There has been no official word on the timing of the announcement of a verdict, but multiple sources suggested it will happen Friday.