CLAYTON, Mo. – An emotional ending to the first day in the trial of a man accused of murdering St. Louis County police Officer Blake Snyder. The officer's widow, Elizabeth Snyder, and his mother, Peggy Snyder, cried as jurors were presented with the slain officer's bloodied uniform and protective vest at the end of the day's testimony.
Interest in the case was so high that the courtroom filled immediately and the overflow room was at capacity soon thereafter. Several county officers were in attendance.
The trial began just after 9 a.m. with the prosecutors and defense opening statements to a jury of six men and six women.
Following opening statements, Elizabeth Snyder was the first person called to the stand. She spoke briefly about her marriage and detailed how she had found out what happened to her husband that morning.
Elizabeth Snyder sat on the stand for less than five minutes.
The defendant, Trenton Forster, appeared in court in a blue shirt, khaki pants, and a tie. He was clean shaven with shorter hair. During opening statements, Forster hunched over on the table in front of him with his head in his arms or sat back in his chair.
Both the defense and prosecution agree that Forster did shoot and kill Officer Snyder. They also agree on Forster’s drug use and his alarming behavior in obtaining guns.
However, the defense does not believe the jury should convict Forster of first-degree murder. Public defender Stephen Reynolds asked the jury to convict his client of second-degree murder. Reynolds pointed to drug abuse and mental health issues, adding that Forster’s suffering from bipolar disorder, which drove him to commit the heinous crime.
During opening remarks, defense attorney Reynolds said Forster was living in his car in the weeks before the shooting, adding that family and friends did not want him staying with them.
If convicted of first-degree murder, Forster could be sentenced to life imprisonment without parole. Should the jury convict Forster of second-degree murder, he'd face a maximum prison sentence of 30 years with the possibility of parole.
St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Wesley Bell said his office was not in favor of the reduced charge.
Officer Snyder was killed before dawn on October 6, 2016, while responding to a disturbance call in Green Park with his partner. Snyder was not dispatched to the area but went by to help anyway, which was not unusual for him.
Police believe Snyder encountered Forster in a vehicle parked outside a home in the 10700 block of Arno Drive. A friend of Forster's lived at the home. They'd had a fight the afternoon before and Forster came to the home around 5 a.m. and began banging on the door looking for her. The friend's mother called the police.
They said Forster shot Snyder when the officer when he asked to see his hands. The bullet struck Snyder's chin, severing his carotid artery. Snyder's partner returned fire, hitting Forster several times.
Prosecutors allege Forster pointed his gun Snyder's partner beforehand and yelled, "I have a gun, f*** it, shoot me!" It's believed Forster wanted to die via suicide by cop.
In the immediate aftermath of the shooting, investigators learned Forster shared anti-police rhetoric on his Twitter account, including a request that a derogatory remark about law enforcement be carved onto his grave.
Prosecutor said Alan Key said Forster was obsessed with buying a gun and had attempted to purchase guns and ammunition multiple times in the week leading up to the shooting. However, Forster was denied purchasing a firearm on each occasion because employees at gun stores said he appeared to be high. Forster eventually obtained a 9mm pistol and a .22-caliber rifle from a private seller. He bought ammunition for the pistol a few days later at a local Walmart.
Forster's friend and her mother also testified Monday. The day before the shooting, the friend shot cellphone videos of Forster while he was impaired and falling down. Those videos were played in open court.