Police line up as protesters gather in St. Louis on Sept. 17, after a judge found Jason Stockley not guilty of first-degree murder in the death of Anthony Lamar Smith, who was fatally shot following a high-speed chase in 2011.
Photo: Jeff Roberson (File/AP)

The aftermath of Jason Stockley’s acquittal for the killing of Anthony Lamar Smith carried an electric, emotional charge for members of the St. Louis community—but it was about to be an event for a few St. Louis Metropolitan Police officers.

According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, three officers, Dustin Boone, Randy Hays, and Christopher Myers, brutally beat a protester at an action a couple days after the Sept. 15, 2017, verdict. Though the protester complied with instructions, the officers inflicted heavy damage with kicks and a riot baton. What they didn’t realize: The man was a 22-year veteran cop, since speculated by the Post-Dispatch to be Luther Hall, who was undercover.

Per the Post-Dispatch:

Hall was kicked in the face, which inflamed his jaw muscles to the point where he could not eat. He went from about 185 pounds to 165.

The cut above his lip was a 2-centimeter hole that went through his face.

He also sustained an injury to his tailbone, which still causes him pain, the sources said.

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What makes it even worse: These officers had been excited to do damage like this the whole day.

From the Washington Post:

“It’s gonna get IGNORANT tonight!!” [Boone] texted on Sept. 15, 2017, the day of the verdict. “It’s gonna be a lot of fun beating the hell out of these s—-heads once the sun goes down and nobody can tell us apart!!!!”

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It’s already terrifying what people will do under the veil of anonymity; holding police accountable is already an uphill battle with full uniforms, bodycams, and eyewitnesses. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that officers might abuse their posts when they feel they’re even less liable to be caught.

The evidence is damning. Another officer, Bailey Colletta, has been charged for lying to a federal grand jury. We know how easy it is for police to lie on each other’s behalf. What will happen now that the victim is an officer, too? No bets, but we know black officers sometimes face a special sort of danger.

I always pose these hypotheticals with a tinge of pessimism, and now is no different: Would there have been consequences if the undercover officer had been a civilian? (Likely not.) I’d like to think Hall’s life would have mattered had he not been a police officer, but reality has proved me wrong over and over.

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Correction: 11/30/2018, 3:14 p.m. EDT: A typo listed Luther Hunt as a 22-year-old officer when he is not 22 and has in fact been on the police force for 22 years. It has been corrected above.