Motives of Woman Suing St. Louis Police Questioned in Court

68-year-old Laura Jones says she was compelled by her faith to protest. City lawyers accuse her of now being motivated by money

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click to enlarge An email from Laura Jones to her brother, containing a photo by Lawrence Bryant for the St. Louis American, entered into evidence.
An email from Laura Jones to her brother, containing a photo by Lawrence Bryant for the St. Louis American, was entered into evidence in her trial.

Yesterday in federal court attorneys representing the city of St. Louis called into question the motives of a 68-year-old woman alleging police used excessive force against her during a 2017 protest.

The civil suit being brought by Laura Jones centers on what she says was officer misconduct on September 15, 2017. That day, former police officer Jason Stockley was acquitted of murder charges stemming from the shooting of 24-year-old Anthony Lamar Smith. The verdict sent hundred of protestors, including Jones, into the streets.

In her suit, Jones says she was “rammed by a police shield and thrown to the ground” at Clark and Tucker avenues. She was placed under arrest soon thereafter. Jones is suing for $177,600.

In her cross examination of Jones this morning, Associate City Counselor Abby Duncan asked her if she was motivated by money to bring this suit. Jones was unequivocal that wasn't the case.

But Duncan then highlighted Jones' medical record from University of Michigan Hospital in which Jones allegedly said during a psychological evaluation that she would kill herself when her alimony ran out when she turned 70. Jones allegedly indicated that she used to be affluent and couldn't imagine living at a lower station.

Duncan also cited an email Jones sent in January 2019 in which she said she was “hoping” for some settlement money when her alimony ran out in 2024.

When questioned by her own attorney, Alicia Campbell, Jones stated that the comments about taking her own life were made during an episode of mental health distress for which she was seeking help.

About the email, Jones previously testified that in emails and text messages to friends and family following her arrest, she minimized the incident, saying she wanted to reassure concerned family and friends who lived out of state.

Yesterday, on her first day on the stand, Jones described her decision to go to the protest as one made seemingly in the spur in the moment, saying she felt compelled by her faith to "pray with her feet" in the face of injustice.

She said on September 15, 2017, she heard the news of the Stockley acquittal on the radio after a week of substitute teaching. Jones testified she was unfamiliar with downtown and wasn't even sure where she parked. By early evening she was at Clark and Tucker, her arms raised and hands formed into two peace signs as a line of police officers with riot shields commanded her to move back.

Whether Jones heard those commands has been a key point of contention over the past two days. It's a question made salient because Jones says she was roughed up in the course of an arrest for "interfering" with police.

On Tuesday, during questioning by her own attorney, Jones said that she couldn't understand what police were saying over a bullhorn, comparing what she heard to a garbled announcement over a bus station PA.

Yesterday morning, city attorney Duncan accused Jones of willfully not hearing police.

Jones testified she has cousins who are police officers in Michigan, including one who was a small town police chief, and that she is proud of their service. On the stand she said she participated in the Women's March in January 2017 as well as a demonstration in support of the Affordable Healthcare Act, but she had never before been at anything like the Stockley protests. She said when people were throwing rocks at officers she shouted to encourage them to stop doing that, as she thought the protest should be kept peaceful.

Jones testified in the years since the incident she's had nightmares about it, and something as simple as being brushed up against in public can trigger a flashback.

Closing arguments in the case begin at 10 a.m., with the jury expected to deliver a verdict later today or tomorrow.

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About The Author

Ryan Krull

Ryan Krull is a staff writer for the Riverfront Times. Find him on Twitter @ryanwkrull
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