Police Who ‘Owned the Night' Cost St. Louis $10 Million

A forthcoming settlement will be the second time the city pays $5 million for response to Stockley protests

Jan 31, 2023 at 8:30 am

Police mass downtown on September 17, 2017, the night of the kettle. - THEO WELLING
Police mass downtown on September 17, 2017, the night of the kettle.

The City of St. Louis will likely pay $5.2 million to settle a class-action lawsuit brought by nearly 100 people who say their civil rights were violated amid the heavy-handed police response to protests in 2017.

The 84 plaintiffs are expected to receive about $58,500 per person.

"I have not yet found a class-action settlement in America that pays out this much per person pertaining to a police response to a protest," attorney Javad Khazaeli tells the RFT. "We're pretty gratified that after five plus years, we finally got to this." The law firms of Khazaeli Wyrsch and Campbell Law represented the plaintiffs in the case.

Right now the $5.2 million figure is for a proposed settlement, but all signs indicate it will be approved by the judge.

The plaintiffs in the case were all downtown on the night of September 17, 2017. Two days prior, former police officer Jason Stockley was acquitted of murder in the killing of 24-year-old Anthony Lamar Smith. Protests broke out soon thereafter.

By nightfall on September 17, there were about 100 protestors and some unlucky passersby downtown near the intersection of Washington Avenue and North Tucker Boulevard. Police say that these individuals refused to disperse. However, those on the other side of the police riot shields say that they couldn’t disperse because officers had them in a “kettle,” meaning that officers were approaching from all sides, leaving no way to egress.

Mass arrests ensued, and many of the people arrested say that they were pepper sprayed despite following police orders.

Later that night, officers were heard chanting “Whose streets? Our streets.” At a press conference, then-acting Police Chief Lawrence O’Toole told reporters, “I’m proud to tell you the City of St. Louis is safe, and the police owned tonight.”

"This was just the police showing off because they were sick of people protesting the police," Khazaeli says.

As part of the proposed settlement, the city denies any wrongdoing.

Also on the evening of September 17, Detective Luther Hall was working undercover when his fellow officers mistook him for a protester and severely beat him. In February 2021, the city agreed to a $5 million settlement with Hall.

"The night that the police chief said they owned the night, cost them $10 million," Khazaeli says.

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