Rapper Nick Cannon was among the hundreds of people protesting in St Louis on Saturday night over a police officer’s acquittal in the shooting death of a black man.
A judge in the Missouri city ruled on Friday that white former police officer Jason Stockley was not guilty of murdering suspected drug dealer Anthony Lamar Smith following a high-speed chase in 2011.
The decision sparked two nights of violent protests in St Louis with at least 38 people arrested.
Hundreds of people turned out for initially peaceful protests after the verdict, but the situation turned violent Friday night and police were forced to break up the crowd with tear gas.
Rapper Nick Cannon was among the hundreds of people protesting in St Louis on Saturday night after white police officer Jason Stockley was not guilty of murdering suspected drug dealer Anthony Lamar Smith in 2011
Jason Stockley (left), now 36, says he did nothing wrong in shooting dead Anthony Lamar Smith (right), 24, on December 20, 2011 after a drug deal bust spiraled into a car chase
Thirty two people were arrested Friday an several police officers were hurt.
A day-long peaceful protest on Saturday turned violent at night with demonstrators smashing windows and throwing rocks at officers. At least six were arrested in that incident in University City, which also saw pepper spray being used on rioters.
Nick Cannon was spotted in various social media videos joining the protests on Saturday evening wearing a Colin Kaepernick jersey.
He was filmed raising his fists as others around him chanted ‘no justice, no profit’.
The violent protests prompted rock giants U2 and pop star Ed Sheeran to call off their concerts in St Louis as the city braced for further protests on Sunday.
The Irish rock band and entertainment firm Live Nation announced the Saturday show’s cancellation in a statement citing concerns about fans’ security.
‘We have been informed by the St Louis Police Department that they are not in a position to provide the standard protection for our audience as would be expected for an event of this size,’ they said.
Police arrest a man as they try to clear a violent crowd on Saturday night in University City, Missouri
People overturn trash cans and throw objects as police try to clear a violent crowd Saturday
A woman looks inside a broken window at a store damaged by protesters on Saturday night
A chair is seen at the bottom of window broken during violent protests in University City
‘We cannot in good conscience risk our fans’ safety by proceeding with tonight’s concert. As much as we regret having to cancel, we feel it is the only acceptable course of action in the current environment.’
Sheeran also announced he was pulling the plug on his show, set for a different St Louis venue on Sunday, amid the protests.
The outcry was sparked after Stockley was found not guilty of first-degree murder, despite him taking his personal AK-47 on duty that night and remarking that he was ‘going to kill this motherf***er’ during the chase.
Stockley told the St Louis Post-Dispatch following the verdict that while he understood how the video of him fatally shooting Smith looked bad, he believes he did nothing wrong.
‘If you’re telling the truth and you’ve been wrongly accused, you should shout it from a mountaintop,’ he said.
Stockley (seen in shooting footage left) was acquitted by Judge Timothy Wilson (right) on Friday, leading to an outcry. Stockley had been accused of planting a gun after the shooting
Stockley denied planting the gun and Wilson agreed there was no evidence. The cop also came in for harsh criticism after it emerged he’d taken an AK-47 (pictured right) on duty
Stockley says the gun (pictured) was breaking the rules but not morally wrong. He also says he doesn’t recall saying he’d ‘kill this motherf**ker’ despite dashcam footage of that remark
Stockley’s claim that he would ‘kill’ Smith during the pursuit – which was captured by his car’s dashcam footage – had seemed to many like incriminating evidence.
But in Friday’s ruling, St Louis Circuit Judge Timothy Wilson said that because the other remarks made before and after that comment were inaudible, it lacked context.
Stockley himself told the Post-Dispatch that he didn’t recall making the remark.
As for carrying an AK-47 – modified with a pistol grip and drum magazine – and 100 rounds of ammunition in his car, Stockley is unrepentant.
He says he started packing the powerful ‘pistol’ after the streets became too dangerous, and said that while he may have broken the rules, he didn’t do anything wrong.
‘I used it as a deterrent, and I believed it was better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it,’ he said.
‘I accept full responsibility for violating the rules. But it’s not a moral crime. It’s a rule violation.’
Some 32 people were arrested on Friday (pictured) in protests at the acquittal. Wilson said the dashcam comment wasn’t fair because the dialogue around it was inaudible
On Saturday night more violence broke out as protesters confronted cops. Stockley says he did nothing wrong in shooting Smith and that he doesn’t deserve blame
Saturday night’s ruckus saw windows smashed, pepper spray deployed and at least six demonstrators arrested. Organizers of the earlier, peaceful protest denounced the violence
He also denies the claim made by prosecutors that his swift entry into Smith’s car was to plant the weapon that would justify killing the young man.
Wilson said there was no evidence the gun had been planted, and that it was reasonable for Stockley to think Smith might fire on him.
Stockley said he already knew what the gun looked like and wanted to make sure Smith hadn’t thrown it out of the window, and that the only thing he would do differently is ‘take the day off.’
‘I don’t know how changing any number of my actions that day would have changed the outcome,’ he said.
He does acknowledge that the video doesn’t put the killing in an entirely favorable light, but says that’s common to every piece of dashcam video.
‘Every resisting [arrest] looks bad, it never looks good,’ he said. ‘But you have to separate the optics from the facts.’
Stockley – who had served a tour in Iraq before becoming a cop five years before the shooting, and is now working for an oil company in Houston – says anger against him from Smith’s family, friends and supporters is misplaced.
‘I can feel for and I understand what the family is going through, and I know everyone wants someone to blame, but I’m just not the guy,’ he said.
He added that ‘My main concern now is for the first responders, the people just trying to go to work and the protesters. I don’t want anyone to be hurt in any way over this.’
On Friday at least 10 police were hurt, including one who had his jaw broken.
For Stockley, the shooting has had a profound effect on his day-to-day living.
‘My life has been in turmoil for some time,’ he said. ‘I’ve been in a holding pattern. I haven’t been able to be with my family. … I’m trying my best not to let this dictate my life.’
And while his six-year court case is finally done, he says he’s still not free.
‘It feels like a burden has been lifted, but the burden of having to kill someone never really lifts,’ he said.
‘The taking of someone’s life is the most significant thing one can do, and it’s not done lightly.’
He added: ‘The decision to use force could be the most important decision you’ll ever make because it could be your last. And regardless of what happens, nobody wins.’