Ex-St. Louis policeman acquitted of murdering black motorist

By Valerie Volcovici

ST. LOUIS (Reuters) – A Missouri judge on Friday found a former St. Louis police officer not guilty of murder in the shooting death of a black man after a car chase in 2011, prosecutors said.

Officials feared the verdict could set off violent protests, as have similar deadly cases involving police and minorities around the United States in recent years.

Jason Stockley, 36, who is white, had been charged with first-degree murder, accused of intentionally killing Anthony Lamar Smith, 24, and planting a gun in his car. Stockley, who was arrested in May 2016, testified he acted in self-defense.

Judge Timothy Wilson’s highly anticipated ruling was announced Friday, more than five weeks after the bench trial ended.

Prosecutor Kimberly Gardner said in a statement she was disappointed with the verdict and believed she had presented proof that Stockley intended to kill Smith.

“However, in this case it was the judge’s duty to evaluate the evidence and deliver his findings,” she said. “That’s how our system works.”

Killings of unarmed black people by U.S. police in recent years triggered widespread protests and activists promised disruptive demonstrations if Stockley was acquitted.

St. Louis and state officials were braced for violent protests and racial tensions like those that followed the 2014 fatal shooting by police of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, near St. Louis.

Missouri Governor Eric Greitens on Thursday put the National Guard on standby. Some schools called off classes and some events were postponed, according to local media.

Christina Wilson, Smith’s fiancée, pleaded at a news conference on Thursday evening for protesters to avoid violence if they demonstrate.

The verdict in St. Louis follows high-profile mistrials or acquittals of police officers charged in shootings in Ohio and Minnesota this year.

Authorities say Smith tried to flee from Stockley on Dec. 20, 2011. During a pursuit, Stockley could be heard saying on an internal police car video that he was going to kill Smith, prosecutors said.

Stockley, riding in the passenger seat of a patrol vehicle with his personal AK-47 in one hand and department-issued weapon in the other, shot at Smith’s car, according to St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Susan Ryan and charging documents. Stockley and his partner chased Smith at speeds exceeding 80 miles per hour (129 kph), the documents said.

At Stockley’s direction, the driver of the police car slammed into Smith’s vehicle and they came to a stop. Stockley then approached Smith’s car and shot him five times, court documents said.

Stockley’s lawyers said he fired in self-defense because he believed Smith was reaching for a gun but prosecutors said the only gun recovered from the scene had only Stockley’s DNA on it.

Stockley, who maintained his innocence, waived his right to a jury trial, allowing the judge to decide. He left the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department in 2013, and additional evidence led to his arrest last year.

Smith’s family in 2013 settled a lawsuit filed against the city for $900,000, the family’s lawyer, Albert Watkins, said.

(Reporting by Suzannah Gonzales and Chris Kenning; Editing by Bill Trott)

A Powerful Message from A Powerful Woman

In all my years in Christian television, I’ve never met a woman like Brigitte Gabriel.

I’ve had the chance to interview some exceptional people on my shows — politicians, entertainers  from all walks of life, and a multitude of preachers and prophetic voices — but I have never heard a story as powerful as hers. I talk about how our entire world can be turned upside down in an instant, how quickly we can lose nearly everything we know, and here is a remarkable woman who has lived through it all. Continue reading

The Honor of Kings

In Proverbs 24:2 the Bible says “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter but the honor of kings to search out those things.”   Because of Christ we are all kings and queens of God. This ministry is about searching and understanding what is coming directly from the Bible.  From this understanding we are to prepare and teach others about His Word!  These past couple of months this ministry has had revelation and understanding coming to us at a rate that makes my head spin.  Thank you Jesus! Continue reading

South Sudanese Pastor Jailed, Beaten

A pastor in South Sudan says that he has had his strength increased after an ordeal where he was jailed and beaten by Islamists.

Adam Haron, 37, a convert from Islam who was born in West Darfur, Sudan.  On November 9th and 10th, Islamic extremists began calling and harassing him about his evangelism work in South Sudan.

Evangelism is legal in the nation where Christians are in the majority.  The country withdrew from Sudan in 2011 partially because of religious freedom issues.

Six days later, six armed men in military uniforms came into his hotel room and seized his items.  They forced him into a car where they began to beat him.  He was held at gunpoint and questioned about being a pastor.  When he said he was a pastor of Jesus Christ, he was taken to a detention center.

Pastor Haron was then kept in jail through February 18th.

Haron said that he was beaten 364 times with a tree branch as a whip.  He was thrown into a narrow cell with his legs bound in chains.  He had over $820 dollars stolen from him by his captors.

Haron says he will return to his church made up of mostly converts from Islam.

Prosecution Rests Case In Boston Marathon Terror Trial

The prosecution has rested its case in the trial of accused Boston Marathon terrorist Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

The prosecution saved their strongest evidence for the last part of their case, the injuries sustained by 8-year-old Martin Richard who died as a result of the explosion.

The boy’s parents, Bill and Denise, watched from the second row during the testimony of Dr. Henry Nields, chief medical examiner for Massachusetts.  The wounds were so intense that courtroom witnesses say some of the jurors cried while others stared at Tsarnaev with visible anger.

The defense team has said their goal in the trial is to keep Tsarnaev from receiving the death penalty for his crimes.  Their opening of their case showed pictures of the bomber was more than just a few feet away from the family with the intent of showing the bomber did not target the children.

The defense is claiming that while their client was a participant in the bombing, his brother was the driving force and the plotter of the terror attack.

ISIS Destroys Fourth Century Monastery

ISIS has destroyed another historic Christian site in their attempts to cleanse the region of all remnants of other faiths.

In addition to the monastery, the terrorists also blew up the homes of 10 Christian families in Ninevah.

The terrorist group released photos on their social media accounts showing their destruction of the ancient Christian Bar Behnam Monastery in the town of Qaraqosh.  The monastery had contained the most valuable Syrian library in Iraq.

The bombing also blew up tombs of people lead to Jesus by the apostle Matthew.

The bombing comes a week after their destruction of a 10th century Catholic monastery in Mosul.

Human Rights Watch has released reports on the destruction in the region during the terrorist offensive.


Indiana Governor Signs Religious Freedom Restoration Act

Indiana Governor Mike Pence signed the state’s “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” that protects Christians and other people of faith from having to be forced into actions that are violate their faith.

“Today I signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, because I support the freedom of religion for every Hoosier of every faith,” he said in a statement. “The Constitution of the United States and the Indiana Constitution both provide strong recognition of the freedom of religion but today, many people of faith feel their religious liberty is under attack by government action.”

The bill is a mirror of the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act which was signed into law by President Bill Clinton.  The law says the government cannot burden someone’s exercise of religion without proving a compelling government interest.

Governor Pence said that while the federal law protects some freedoms, there are things on the state level that needed to be covered by a state law.

“Last year the Supreme Court of the United States upheld religious liberty in the Hobby Lobby case based on the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, but that act does not apply to individual states or local government action,” he said. “In order to ensure that religious liberty is fully protected under Indiana law, this year our General Assembly joined those 30 states [who have passed local legislation] and the federal government to enshrine these principles in Indiana law, and I fully support that action.”


Christian School Wins Battle With Teachers Who Refused To Affirm Faith

A Christian school has won a legal battle with two teachers who sued the school after their contracts were not renewed because they refused to provide proof they were Christians.

Little Oaks Elementary Schhol, owned by Calvary Chapel of Thousand Oaks, California, requires all teachers to complete a form that affirms their faith in Christ as part of their teacher contracts.  Two teachers, Lynda Serrano and Mary Ellen Guevara, refused to submit the document.

The document requires among other things a pastor attesting to their church attendance and their Christians beliefs.

The women claimed they were being discriminated against because they refused to sign the papers.

Ventura County Superior Court Judge Henry Walsh sided with the school saying that the teachers served in a ministerial capacity when they were working within the school.  That meant the school can require proof of faith as a condition of employment.

“We are grateful that this Court has chosen to protect the liberty of Little Oaks School,” commented attorney James Long in a press release on Wednesday. “It only makes sense that a Christian school has the constitutional right to require that its teachers provide a reference from a pastor.”


Family Shares Story from Homelessness to Healing

A homeless couple stood on a street corner in Southern California with a sign that read “Family Needs Help God Bless.”  Robert Wessely and his wife were begging for money to pay for a room for themselves and their four children.

They had no idea that God was about to bring a stranger into their lives that was the first step in life transformation.

The family was in Eureka, California asking for help when a woman drove up and gave them ten dollars.  Robert immediately went to a gas station and bought food for his children, all under the age of seven.  The woman then came back to the corner and gave the family her husband’s cell phone number.

He was going to offer Robert a job at his construction company.

The man, Carl Hawkins, then went further than offering a job as a day laborer.  On Christmas Eve, he welcomed the entire family into his home.

“He started working for me the day before Christmas Eve. I felt the Lord saying ‘Christmas is all about me and my love. Show [them] my love,'” Hawkins explained. “It started out that they were just going to live with us over the holidays. It was after that that the Lord impressed upon me to really open the doors and offer him a place to live with his family, if they were willing to live by God’s design.”

The family was required to attend church, have family worship time during the week and managing their finances appropriately to plan for the future.

Now, Robert and his family live in their own home near Lake Elsinore and give back with their own ministry to help homeless families.

“Instead of looking at a trickling of water on a curb, now on our front porch, I get to look at a lake. The beauty behind God is a true blessing,” Robert said. “We literally went from curb to castle.”


Iraq Special Forces Advance on Tikrit

Iraqi Special Forces are advancing on Tikrit, driving out the terrorist group ISIS from what had been considered a major win for the terrorists.

The advance has been assisted by the U.S. airstrikes against key parts of the terrorist’s defense network within the city.  The attacks were the first major air assault by U.S. forces in several weeks.

“The Iraqi and coalition air forces conduct strikes in order to remove the enemy and then our forces advance,” said General Tahsin Ibrahim Sadiq. “When the attacking forces advance, they clear any pockets of resistance and allow for the rest of our forces to move in and barricade further ahead.”

Officials say the airstrikes are also targeting ISIS leadership’s command locations.

More than 20,000 Iraqi troops and paramilitary groups are involved in the Tikrit offensive.

The assault came as two Shi’ite militias withdrew from the battle because the United States demanded that Iranian officials and Iranian troops withdraw from the battle.  The militias are protesting that U.S. is forbidding Iranian involvement.