Philando Castile is the latest victim of police violence. The thirty-two year old school nutrition supervisor was shot and killed by a yet to be named officer of the St. Anthony Minnesota Police Department at around 9:00pm Wednesday night. Castile, an African-American, was pulled over for a broken taillight. Within moments he would be killed, with his fiance and a four year old child in the car. The moments after the shooting were live streamed on Facebook by Diamond Reynolds who was set to marry Castile. She kept an unusual amount of composure considering what she had just witnessed only inches from her and her daughter, who sat in the back seat. The world would get to see what its like being at a scene of police violence in a way they never have before.
You can hear Reynolds narrating the video,explaining that Castile was licensed to carry a firearm. She stated that Castile told the officer he was armed and had a permit. She tells the Facebook audience that he was trying to get his license when the officer shot four bullets into him. The officer, whose firearm was still pointed in the driver side window, yells to Reynolds to keep her hands visible. The officer was not named as of yet. You can detect a high level of agitation in his voice. He yells back to Reynolds, “I told him not to reach for it! I told him to get his hand out!” The officers tone and level of hyper-vigilance rings of panic, not fear for ones self.
From what can be gathered from the video, Castile was pulled over for a broken taillight. Reynolds informed the officer he was carrying a handgun and had a permit. The officer then asks Castile to provide his license, and when Castile reaches for his identification, the officer shot him four times. Reynolds tells the officer, “Please don’t tell me you just did this to him. You shot four bullets into him, sir.” The video continues to stream as officers surround her at gunpoint. They command her out of the car and handcuff her. The phone falls to the ground while Reynolds cries out in horror. The police then give the phone back to Reynolds who continues to stream the incident from the back seat of the patrol car.
Valerie Castile, Philando’s mother found out about the shooting the hard way. She received a phone call from someone who saw the live stream. She responded to the hospital once she found out, however, Philando had already been pronounced dead. Philando’s body is being held by authorities. Valerie Castile won’t be allowed to see her son until Friday. Protesters surrounded the Governors mansion Thursday morning after marching from the scene of the shooting to the home of the state’s top executive. They demanded a statement from Governor Mark Dayton before they would take their protest elsewhere.
This case is eerily connected to the Alton Sterling case, which we were all just made aware of. Both incidents involve African-American males who were armed but were not showing any signs of aggression or intent to use their firearms. Both cases involve cops demonstrating behaviors indicative of extreme hyper-vigilance. In both cases the cops acted as though there was a clear and imminent threat, to the point that they were willing to discharge their firearm. Since the firearms were never used or threatened to be used by either Sterling or Castile, the only common factor remaining is that they were black. The overt racism demonstrated by officers is becoming more transparent and easy to detect. In turn, their actions are becoming harder to defend.
This case also resembles the shooting of LeVar Jones, who was fortunate enough to have survived his encounter with a trigger happy cop. Trooper Sean Groubert of the South Carolina Highway Patrol pulled Jones over for a minor traffic violation. Dash cam footage shows Jones get out of his truck and the trooper asked him for his license and registration. Jones turns toward the truck and reaches in to get his identification when he is shot several times by Groubert. Groubert plead guilt to aggravated battery and faces up to 20 years in prison. The similarities bwtewwn these incidents should indicate a similar outcome in the case of Philando Castile.
The St. Anthony’s Police Department just changed Chiefs one month ago. Their former chief, John Ohl criticized the media in an interview he gave for his then upcoming retirement. “Our city loves us, our council supports us, and we are greatly appreciative of that citizen and council support,” Ohl proclaimed. “But geez! National news media and local media are making it tough on us. And it’s tough to recruit new cops, good high quality cops!” If the attitudes of the former chief are any reflection on the department and their new chief in St. Anthony, then you can already see how they are going to spin this. A story of a good shoot spun out of control by the media is likely what will be sold to the district attorney and us.
The Governor issued a press release to curb worries of transparency and cover-up. In his statement he advised that a request has been sent to the US Justice Department for federal investigation to begin immediately. Dayton claimed he would do “everything in my power to help protect the integrity of that investigation, to ensure a proper and just outcome for all involved.” President Obama chimed in, releasing a statement condemning this incident advising that the Justice Department had already opened a civil rights investigation into the shooting in Baton Rouge and that he had confidence in them to conduct a fair inquiry in this case as well.