ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI) - Just days after a former St Louis police officer was charged with first-degree murder in the shooting of Anthony Lamar Smith, his family is calling for an independent federal prosecutor to investigate possible cover-ups by the police department and city government. During a news conference Thursday on the steps of St. Louis City Hall, the group demanded to know why it took more than four years to file the criminal charges.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office reviewed the case in 2012 and decided not to pursue any criminal charges. The case was referred to the U.S. Justice Department's Civil Rights Division. So far, there has been no response from the DOJ.
The St. Louis City Circuit Attorney was asked to examine the case for possible criminal prosecution in March 2016 by St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson. Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce filed first-degree murder charges against the former officer Jason Stockley in mid-May.
A local activist who filed a Freedom of Information request about the incident in January 2016 thinks his request prompted the new investigation.
That activist, Anthony Shahid, also filed a complaint with St. Louis City’s police citizen review board. Shahid said St. Louis needs to "address a problem within the police department of a code of silence."
Anthony Gray, an attorney representing Smith's mother, Annie Smith, said authorities should have taken action four years ago.
"They didn't and they should be held responsible for that failure to act when they had a duty and responsibility to do so, "he said.
St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay issued a statement through his chief of staff saying he believed the U.S. Attorney's Office had reviewed the case when he first learned of it in 2013. At that time Slay was a member of the Board of Police Commissioners and had to decide whether to settle a civil wrongful death suit following Smith's killing. Shahid called for Slay to resign within five days or risk protests at Ballpark Village in downtown St. Louis. Slay's office declined to comment on that demand.
The activists also want former officer Stockley’s partner Police Officer Brian Bianchi investigated. They question why he never came forward to report the shooting as a crime. Bianchi's attorney said the case was investigated in 2012 by the FBI and the U.S. Attorney.
"They passed on it and did nothing," said Jim Towey. He suggested the case is being looked at in a "post-Ferguson world."
Mayor Slay's chief of staff Mary Ellen Ponder said the city is much better prepared to handle police involved shootings today. Since 2011 when Smith was shot and killed, St. Louis has taken control of the Police Department from the state of Missouri and there has been a change in police chiefs.