Many of us have seen the video of horrible aftermath of the fatal shooting by police officer Jeronimo Yanez of Philando Castile. The video was posted on Facebook by Castile’s girlfriend who was a passenger in his car at the time the shots were fired. Castile, a 32 year old black man, was a nutrition services supervisor at a local school. The video understandably went viral. You can view it here: Philando Castile shooting aftermath.
Officer Jeronimo Yanez was acquitted at the conclusion of his trial of one charge of manslaughter, as well as two counts of dangerous discharge of a firearm on June 16. The jury deliberated for 27 hours, eventually overcoming the objections of two of its members to reach the not guilty verdicts. In an interview one of the jury members later said that the jury ultimately decided that the police officer “had acted as any other officer would”.
With 12 randomly selected citizens on the jury coming to that same conclusion, one would normally believe that Officer Yanez acted reasonably within the parameters of his training in order protect himself; After watching the recently released dash cam video from Yanez’s police car several times I came to a totally different conclusion – that the jury’s verdict was totally bogus.
This link contains a copy of the dash cam footage complete with audio: Dashcam video shows police shooting of Philando Castile Watch it if you can; warning: doing so is a difficult experience
Only 40 seconds elapsed between the moment Yanez approached Castile car, said hello and asked for Castile’s driver’s license until he fired seven shots into the car which contained not only Castile and his passenger Diamond Reynolds, but also her 4-year-old daughter in the back seat.
If you have difficulty understanding all of the audio, the following is the text as best I could record it of the conversation between Yanez, Castile and Reynolds through the point when the shots were fired.
Yanez: Hello sir,
Castile: Hello, how are you?
Yanez: The reason I pulled you over is because your break lights is out so you only have one activated, active break light which is the one on your passenger side, your third break light which is the one here on top and this one right here is going to be out. Do you have a license sir?
(Castile hands Yanez what is apparently his driver’s license and Yanez looks at it.)
Castile: Sir, I have to tell you I do have a …
Castile: … firearm on me.
Castile: I (inaudible)
Yanez: Don’t reach for it then.
Castile: I’m, I, I was reaching for …
Yanez: Don’t pull it out.
Castile: I’m not pulling it out.
Reynolds: He’s not.
Yanez (voice rising): Don’t pull it out!
(Yanez, whose right hand had been near his gun, pulls out his weapon and fires seven rapid shots into the car striking Castile five times)
Reynolds: You just killed my boyfriend.
Castile: I wasn’t reaching …
Reynolds: He wasn’t reaching.
Yanez (shouting): Don’t pull it out!
Reynolds: He wasn’t.
Yanez (shouting as he continues to point his pistol in the car): Don’t move!
Reynolds: Don’t move baby.
Yanez (shouting): Don’t move! (Expletive beeped.)
Reynolds (crying): Oh my God! Oh my God!
(Yanez then calls for backup and then you can hear him shouting expletives. Then you hear only his heavily breathing. At the same time Reynolds begins her amazingly calm narration of the incident which you can also hear on the aftermath video she posted on Facebook.)
Castile’s gun was found still in his pants pocket after he died of his injuries by the other police officer at the scene. Yanez shot Philando Castile, a solid citizen, five times because he thought Castile might be reaching for his gun, not because he attempted to pull the gun out of his pocket. Castile had a permit to carry the weapon.
Now we don’t know everything that went on during the trial, though I did read the CNN account of the proceedings. But how could any juror watch the dash cam video and listen closely to the audio and then come away from that experience with the conclusion that the police officer “had acted as any other officer would”? That’s totally beyond my comprehension. What I saw and heard in multiple viewing of the video is a police office that began panicking the moment a weapon was mentioned, who then lost all sense of judgment in his panic and in the process shot and killed a motorist totally without sufficient justification.
At his trial Yanez testified that he feared for his life. Undoubtedly he did fear for his life; you can surely sense that in the video, but was that fear reasonable? Absolutely not! Following normal police procedure, Castile would have run the license plate of the car he had stopped before he approached the driver. He would have discovered that the car wasn’t owned by a felon, nor had it been reported stolen. For all practical purposes he should not have automatically assumed that the person he had pull over was dangerous. Yet he began panicking the moment Castile told him he had a gun. Had he not done so he would have figured out that no one is going warn you that he has a gun if his intention is to pull it out and shoot you. Yanez was trained as a police office not to panic such a situation but apparently the thought of a black guy with a gun sent him over the edge.
Why is it that in case after case, when police officers have serious laps in judgment which result in innocent civilians being killed, are they able escape justice? We all know our police officers do a dangerous job and that they must be allowed to protect themselves in dangerous situations. No argument there. However, while I have never had the benefit of police training, I know that if I panic and kill an innocent person on the street with a gun there is a high likelihood that I would be end up in jail convicted of manslaughter. Why aren’t police officers held to the same standard?
While the jury may have declared Officer Jeronimo Yanez “not guilty”, apparently his police superiors did not come to the same conclusion. Immediately after his trial, Yanez was fired by the St. Anthony, Minnesota Police Department. Apparently, despite the verdict, St. Anthony town officials decided they could not afford to keep such a reckless individual on their police force.