U2 cancels St. Louis show due to protests

ST. LOUIS — The Irish rock band U2 has canceled its Saturday night concert in St. Louis after police told concert organizers that they couldn’t provide a typical level of security because of protests.

Hundreds marched Friday after a judge acquitted a white former St. Louis police officer in the 2011 shooting death of a black suspect. The protests are expected to continue on Saturday.

Police say nine city police officers and one State Highway Patrol officer were injured in Friday’s protests. There were 23 arrests before 6 p.m. and an unknown number of additional arrests after that.

The band says on its website that it can’t in good conscience risk its fans’ safety. The site outlines plans for refunds.

As of 2 a.m. Saturday, activists say they will meet again Saturday to plan further protests after the acquittal of a white former St. Louis police officer in the fatal shooting of a black man.

Hundreds protested Friday. They marched for hours in mostly peaceful demonstrations, until a broken window at the mayor’s home and escalating tensions led riot-gear-clad officers to lob tear gas to disperse the crowds.

Activists had for weeks threatened civil disobedience if Jason Stockley were not convicted in the 2011 death of 24-year-old Anthony Lamar Smith. That stirred fears of civil unrest and the erecting of barricades around police headquarters, the courthouse where the trial was held and other potential protest sites.

More than 20 arrests were made by early Friday evening. Police reported that 10 officers had suffered injuries by the end of the night.

Smith was shot after a police chase in December 2011. Stockley says he acted in self-defense and believed Smith was reaching for a gun in his car.  Prosecutors have accused the officer of planting a silver revolver to justify the shooting.

Shooting happened years before Ferguson

Stockley killed Smith years before the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson. Around that time country star Hunter Hayes canceled a concert after the governor declared state of emergency in St. Louis due to violent protests and looting.

Initially, state and federal authorities did not prosecute Stockley, but in Ferguson’s aftermath, then-St. Louis Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce charged him with first-degree murder in May 2016, citing new evidence.

Stockley left the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department in August 2013. Later that year, the St. Louis police board settled a wrongful death suit with Smith’s survivors for $900,000.

Few police officers ever face trial in shooting deaths, and even fewer are convicted. Before Friday’s verdict, the past year had seen officers acquitted or mistrials declared after jurors deadlocked in several high-profile trials, including at least four since May.

“Officer-involved shootings are very difficult to obtain a guilty verdict,” Gardner, St. Louis’ chief prosecutor, said Friday.

She later said that in such shootings “we must re-examine not just how we prosecute these cases but how investigate them.”

What happened?

On December 20, 2011, Stockley and his partner, Brian Bianchi, tried to stop Smith after witnessing a suspected drug transaction in a restaurant parking lot, according to a police department report obtained by the Post-Dispatch.

Bianchi told him Smith was reaching for a weapon, the report said. Stockley exited the police SUV carrying his department-issued handgun along with his personal AK-47 pistol. It was against department policy to carry the latter.

Smith tried to speed away, knocking Stockley sideways, and the officer fired several shots at the vehicle, saying he feared for his life and the safety of others, the report said.

Stockley and Bianchi pursued Smith and at some point, the police vehicle crashed into Smith’s Buick, the report said.

With Bianchi at the wheel, the officers chased Smith at speeds of more than 80 mph before the crash, according to the criminal complaint.

Smith was alive after the crash when the officers approached his car with their weapons drawn. In the internal report, Stockley said he ordered Smith to show his hands, and believed the suspect was reaching for a handgun between the center console and the passenger seat.

After he fired, striking Smith in the chest, Stockley returned to the police SUV to retrieve materials to render first aid, but when he came back it was too late.

Stockley entered Smith’s car “to locate the weapon and render it safe,” and removed the ammunition from the silver revolver, he said in the report.

Forensic analysis revealed that Stockley’s was the only DNA present on the gun he said belonged to Smith, the criminal complaint said.

Stockley’s partner wasn’t charged.