On November 21, Lawrence Stoker, who was with cousin De'Von Bailey when the latter was shot to death by Colorado Springs police officers on August 3 while he was trying to run away, has been cleared of misdemeanor assault charges following an alleged robbery that prompted the original call to the cops. And those determining his fate didn't take long to decide.
Stoker was "found not guilty after ten minutes of deliberation," notes Daniel Kay, Stoker's attorney, corresponding via email. "As I told you, the evidence of self-defense was strong."
Kay's last comment is a reference to "Did Crime That Led to De'Von Bailey's Police-Shooting Death Really Happen?," a September 27 Westword story in which the attorney outlined what he suggested was a bogus effort by authorities to justify the Bailey killing by throwing the book at the only suspect from the original confrontation still alive: Stoker.
According to Kay, "The comments from the jurors were very pointed at the DA's office for wasting their time."
The district attorney in question is Dan May of the 4th Judicial District, who has taken plenty of heat since last week, when a grand jury declined to indict Sergeant Alan V'ant Land and Officer Blake Evenson in the killing of Bailey, who was the same age as Stoker, nineteen, when he died. Just over 24 hours after this announcement, red paint presumably simulating blood was splashed on the DA office's entrance — and while this act of vandalism remains under investigation, the timing and the anger of the community over the grand jury decision, as described by Bailey family spokesperson Reverend Promise Lee, certainly hint at a possible connection.
(May's office has not yet returned our request for comment.)
In his September interview, Kay previewed his trial strategy to attack the credibility of Anthony Love, the man who called the authorities about Stoker and Bailey. "What happened was similar to swatting," Kay said, calling police on a false report simply for the fun of it. Although Love insisted he'd been robbed at gunpoint, the attorney noted, "Mr. Stoker was never charged with aggravated robbery, and it clearly did not occur."
After the shooting, the Colorado Springs Police Department released a compilation of body-camera footage and audio from Love's 911 call. (Warning: The video's contents may disturb some readers.)
In the 911 recording, Love told the dispatcher: "So, I'm walking down the street. There are these two black guys. One of them has a gun. They approached me, and they're like, 'What's in your pockets?' And, like, I'm basically like at first, like, I was startled, so I was really like, 'Nothing,' but I don't say it like out of fear or nothing. Then they, like, then one of the guys started hitting me and I fall down to the ground, and the other guy pulls out the gun...."
At 6:44 p.m. on August 3, two police colleagues of V'ant Land and Evenson were informed of Love's call. They began interviewing him at 6:52 p.m., and one of them aired descriptions of Bailey and Stoker at 6:56:40. Less than two minutes afterward, at 6:58:22, the shots that killed Bailey were fired.
The speed of this sequence was troubling, Kay said, particularly because "Mr. Love was drunk and high while speaking to the officers, which he even admitted. And his statements were very inconsistent."
Several examples of these inconsistencies were included in a motion to suppress that Kay filed. For instance, Love initially claimed that he was "walking down the street and some men just confronted me with a gun and they fought me and tried to take my belongings," only to later concede that he grew up with Bailey and Stoker and knew them well enough to be able to tell the cops where they lived. The document also stated that Love's story of what was stolen shifted on several occasions, with the various items mentioned including a wallet, a temporary ID, a KFC card, a Social Security card, a job card and "a couple of bucks."
Even more problematic from Kay's perspective: Love claimed that Bailey pulled a gun on him, but when asked if he'd seen a weapon shortly thereafter, he said he "honestly didn't know."
Because none of Love's belongings were found on Stoker, he was eventually accused of third-degree assault, a misdemeanor, for allegedly starting a fight with Love. For his part, Stoker maintained that Love swung first and that he was simply defending himself. Noted Kay, "Mr. Love was untruthful on many levels. At best, he was untruthful. At worst, he was malicious."
Kay saw Stoker's prosecution in similar terms. The police's need to come up with a reasonable rationale for the shooting was "the reason we feel he was charged," he told us in September. "I mean, he was in custody for nine hours and interrogated for seven. Have you ever heard of someone interrogated for seven hours for misdemeanor fighting?"
Now, Stoker is free — and attorneys representing Bailey's family say they plan to file a lawsuit over the shooting.
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