Demonstrators said they were pepper-sprayed by police, at least 10 cops were injured, and U2 and Ed Sheeran canceled concerts in St. Louis over the weekend as protests continued over a not-guilty verdict for Jason Stockley, a white ex-police officer who shot dead a black motorist in 2011. Stockley is now speaking out on all of the hubbub swirling around him, via an exclusive interview conducted Friday with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, which the Washington Post says looked to have been videotaped in a "private indoor space." The acquitted officer, who'd long been under a gag order, said, "It feels like a burden has been lifted"—though he was quick to add that "the burden of having to kill someone never really lifts" and that "the taking of someone's life is the most significant thing one can do, and it's not done lightly."
The 36-year-old, who now lives in Houston, said that while he "can feel for and … understand" what the family of Anthony Lamar Smith—the 24-year-old black man he killed as he and his partner tried to arrest Smith in a suspected drug deal—is going through, he doesn't think he should be the scapegoat for Smith's death. "Everyone wants someone to blame, but I'm just not the guy," he told the paper. Stockley conceded that the video showing the shooting may not make him look good in the public's eyes, but he added, "You have to separate the optics from the facts." The Post-Dispatch notes Stockley also teared up when asked why he gave the green light to this interview. "Because I did nothing wrong," he insisted. "If you're telling the truth and you've been wrongly accused, you should shout it from a mountaintop." His interview here, including how the case affected him personally. (Read more Jason Stockley stories.)