ST. LOUIS (AP) — Some of the people who were arrested during a 2017 protest over the acquittal of a white police officer in the shooting death of Anthony Lamar Smith have started receiving their share of a $4.9 million settlement the city agreed to this year.
The first checks were distributed Friday to some of the 84 people covered by the settlement. Their lawsuit had claimed the protesters’ rights were violated when they were caught in a police “kettle” as officers surrounded and arrested everyone in the area. Three people who filed individual lawsuits also settled for $85,000 each.
The city denied wrongdoing as part of the settlement, which promises payouts between $28,000 and more than $150,000.
Dekita Roberts told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that she initially thought it might be a scam when she first got the call about the settlement.
“It was just a shock and a surprise,” said Roberts, adding that she wants to invest some of the money and try to set some aside for her children.
Another man who picked up his check Friday, Ali Bey, 36, said he plans to use the money to start his own construction company.
“This takes five steps out of the way for me,” Bey said. “As far as getting a truck and tools, I can begin doing that by the end of the day. I already got some of the clientele.”
They were among the crowd of people protesting after former St. Louis police officer Jason Stockley was acquitted in the Dec. 20, 2011, shooting death of Smith, who was Black.
Protesters said police surrounded more than 120 people who officers said did not follow dispersal orders. Several people claimed police used excessive force and indiscriminate pepper spray, including against bystanders who were not protesting.
St. Louis has paid more than $10 million altogether in connection with police actions on Sept. 17, 2017. That includes a $5 million payment to Luther Hall, a Black undercover officer who said he was assaulted by fellow police officers who thought he was a protester.
In 2021, the city also agreed to pay $115,000 to a Kansas City filmmaker who said he was beaten and pepper-sprayed during the protests.
Javad Khazaeli, one of the plaintiffs’ lawyers, said this case dragged on for years.
“Other cities that have done this have gone through the whole process and trials in a year and a half,” Khazaeli said. “We’ve had people move away from St. Louis because people are still afraid of the police.”