A Brief History
On Friday, June 16, 2017, the news hit the proverbial fan as the jury came to verdicts in the trial of Officer Jeronimo Yanez, the Minnesota cop that shot and killed Philando Castile while Castile’s girlfriend played the aftermath on live streaming video.
Castile, an African American man with an extensive history of traffic violations was stopped by Officer Yanez for a minor traffic violation. Passengers in the Castile car included his girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, and her 4 year old daughter. Castile allegedly told Yanez that he (Castile) had a legally licensed pistol on his person, and Yanez shot and killed Castile while Castile sat in his car behind the steering wheel. Yanez claimed Castile was going to draw his pistol and Yanez shot Castile out of fear Castile would shoot Yanez. Reynolds claimed Castile was merely going to pull out his wallet.
The case received national attention and was portrayed as another case of non-African (in this case Hispanic) police gunning down an African American male for no good reason. The video widely disseminated shot by Reynolds on her cell phone was seen across the country and around the world.
The media was quick to condemn Officer Yanez, and with the national outrage and hysteria over the seeming war on Black men by Police, there was tremendous pressure on local and state authorities to charge Officer Yanez with some sort of wrongful death type of crime. Yanez was indicted for a count of manslaughter and 2 counts of intentional firing of a firearm that endangers safety (because of the 2 female passengers in the car). Yanez was found not guilty on all counts, sparking the expected outrage by the family and friends of Castile and of anti-police activists.
Obviously, anyone not on the scene at the time of the shooting could say if Castile was really reaching for his ID in the back pocket of his shorts or if he was reaching for his pistol in the front pocket of his shorts. Officer Yanez said Castile was reaching for the gun, while Reynolds said Castile was reaching for his ID. Reynolds hurt her own credibility by claiming police refused any sort of first aid for Castile until EMTs arrived, but in fact a citizen took video of a police officer providing first aid to Castile while EMTs were enroute.
Use of force experts testified on behalf of Officer Yanez, that the shooting was reasonable under the circumstances. Castile had apparently been smoking marijuana, which the defense team claimed may have affected his coordination and/or judgement, perhaps leading to Castile reaching for the gun instead of his credentials.
The City of St. Anthony, Minnesota, (suburban St. Paul) where Yanez is a police officer, has reported their intention of negotiating a separation agreement with Officer Yanez so that he is no longer employed by the St. Anthony Police Department. Question for students (and subscribers): Is Jeronimo Yanez another casualty of reactionary media and ill-advised activists? Or did Officer Yanez get away with murder? Please share your opinions on this subject in the comments section below this article.
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For more information, please see…
Mac Donald, Heather. The War on Cops: How the New Attack on Law and Order Makes Everyone Less Safe. Encounter Books, 2016.