From [HERE] A Black man at the scene of a fatal shooting by a white police officer of a Black man in 2011 said he told inquiring FBI agents a few months later that his friend had recorded its immediate aftermath on a cellphone, and they could get a copy from him.
But the man with the cellphone told the Post-Dispatch last week that investigators never asked him for the video and he never volunteered it.
“I didn’t want to be in the spotlight,” he said.
Smith was shot by then-Officer Jason Stockley after a suspected drug deal turned into a police pursuit and crash. Stockley was charged in May — more than four years later — with murder.
The men with the video agreed to interviews if their names were not publicly revealed. They said they fear retribution from police.
The one with the cellphone said that shortly after the shooting, he gave a copy of the video to one of Smith’s relatives, whom he would not identify.
The video never surfaced until June, when the Post-Dispatch obtained it from activists, who would not reveal where they got it. Local and federal prosecutors said they had never seen it before.
Statements by the two men cast new doubt on how thorough the law enforcement inquiry was at the time, given that investigators knew of the video’s existence but did not find it.
U.S. Attorney Richard Callahan insisted in an interview Friday that the FBI agents pursued their search for the cellphone video as far as they could.
“I can assure you, there was nobody we failed to quiz about a possible video. We were trying to track down any video that existed.”
Callahan indicated the federal agents believed that the shooting witness was the man who shot the video and that their search ended when that witness said the phone was lost.
But in an interview last week, the shooting witness insisted that he had told the FBI 4½ years ago that his friend had made the video, and they could still track it down from him.
The friend, also interviewed last week, said federal agents never came looking for the cellphone video.
St. Louis Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce charged Stockley in May with first-degree murder, citing the discovery of “new evidence,” which she has not revealed.
The man who said he recorded the aftermath said he recently testified before the St. Louis grand jury that indicted Jason Stockley on Aug. 11 on the murder charge.
But the man who said he witnessed the shooting said he was never asked to testify.
Callahan said that man had so many inconsistencies in his FBI interview four years ago that agents doubted he actually saw it.
Stockley, 35, has said he fired in self-defense after Smith pointed a gun at him. Police said a revolver was recovered in Smith’s car. Officials found Stockley’s DNA — but not Smith’s — on that gun.
The cellphone video — on which both men’s voices can be heard — shows key movements of police at the scene, including Stockley as he walks from Smith’s car and returns to the police SUV, where he leans into the back door. Then he goes back to Smith’s car and, immediately after the body is pulled out, climbs into the driver’s seat and stays there about 30 seconds. The view does not show the inside of the car.
Some believe that provided an opportunity for Stockley to retrieve and plant the weapon.
Stockley has said he started to get a “clot pack” from the police vehicle to treat Smith’s wounds but then realized it was futile. His attorneys have said the officer handled the gun while recovering and unloading it.
Taking a break
The shooting witness said he was doing work inside a second-floor business on West Florissant Avenue near Goodfellow Boulevard on Dec. 20, 2011, when he took a break and looked out a window.
He saw a car speeding down West Florissant with a police SUV close behind. He said the SUV hit the car with an impact that jolted the driver, Smith, to the point that he slumped over the steering wheel as if he were unconscious, or at least impaired.
“He just lost control of the vehicle at that point,” the witness recalled. The car rolled to the opposite side of the street for about 50 yards until it hit a curb near a utility pole. Then, the man said, the police SUV rammed the back of the car.
He said he saw the officer who was driving get out in a daze and approach the car with his handgun drawn. Police SUV dashboard video, viewed by the Post-Dispatch years ago but not publicly released, contradicts this memory, showing Stockley exit the passenger side of the SUV and approach Smith.
The police dashboard video was running during the shooting, but the view is badly obscured by Smith’s car and the airbags that deployed when the vehicles collided. That video has since been placed under a court protective order.
The witness said the officer tried to open Smith’s door at least twice, but couldn’t, and then backed up slightly and started firing into the vehicle.
“He didn’t even give that man a chance,” he said. “There were no words, he just shot into the car.”
The other man said the sound of the crash drew him to the same window. He would not say exactly what he saw, but the shooting was over before he started recording.
He said he testified about it to a grand jury.
“I understand that tensions were running high but that officer reacted the wrong way,” he said. “What he did was wrong. We couldn’t believe what we seen with our own eyes.”
The maker of the video became emotional when explaining that his mistrust of the police was the reason he did not share the video with them. Both men, who are black, said they believe police treat minorities unfairly. The investigation into the death of Smith, who was black, by Stockley, who is white, is just another example, he said.
He said he did not hear another word about the video until this year, when the Smith relative who received it called to ask if he would mind it being released to the media.
About a month later, he said, an investigator for Joyce’s office was at his door, asking him to testify.
Albert Watkins, a lawyer who represented Smith’s then 1-year-old daughter in collecting $900,000 in a federal wrongful-death suit, has said that city attorneys provided him with a copy of an FBI report indicating a witness took video from a window overlooking the scene.
“We were told the phone containing the video had been stolen and (the police department) did not have the video,” he wrote to St. Louis City Counselor Michael Garvin on June 22.
Watkins said it is “counterintuitive” and “makes no sense” to think that the Smith family had the video but did not share it with investigators.