Dash cam video has been released of the shooting of Philando Castile after the jury returned a not guilty verdict for Officer Yanez. Let’s go over some basic facts first.
Yanez stopped Castile because he matched the physical description of an armed robber (black male with long hair and very wide set nose) who had recently robbed the gas station very close to where the traffic stop occurs. Yanez used the burned out brake light as as a reason for contact. This doesn’t mean Yanez assumed Castile was the robber or that he was guilty of the robbery, it’s simply a reason for contact to stop and talk to him, get his identification, etc. It’s good police work. A positive identification could then potentially be sent to the robbery detective where he could follow up with that information.
Another thing to keep in mind is that the toxicology report showed marijuana in Castile’s system and Yanez stated he could smell marijuana inside the vehicle. The fact that Castile was high during this stop is important as I’ll explain later.
Here’s the video…
Warning, it’s graphic and profanity is used.
The first thing to take note of is that both Yanez and Castile appear to be calm and respectful to each other as Yanez is explaining the reason for the traffic stop.
The second thing to take note of is that Castile hands his insurance to Yanez. This contradicts the initial Facebook Live video from passenger Diamond Reynolds where she stated the officer shot him while he was reaching for his license after he was asked for it. Castile did not have a license to reach for as his was suspended. So if he already handed over his insurance card, and didn’t have a license to reach for, what else could he have been reaching for?
Castile then also tells Yanez that he has a gun, which he is required to do as part of having a permit to carry the gun. That is also important, as you cannot obtain a permit to carry a gun without attending a class where they go over the procedures of a citizen’s obligations any time they come into contact with law enforcement. What this proves is that Castile knew the weighty implications of carrying a gun including what he is supposed to do and NOT do if an officer has come into contact with him. Unless his class was a very poor one, they would have explained to him his obligation to notify the officer of his gun and to not reach for it unless instructed to do so.
After Castile notifies Yanez of his gun, you can see Yanez’ sense of danger go up a little as he puts his hand on his own firearm. Yanez’ sense of danger went up SOME, but he still was not afraid for his life at this point because he merely puts his hand on his gun but does not unholster it. This is a visual indicator that Yanez was preparing himself should something go bad, but that he was not yet fearing for his life.
Yanez says, “Ok, don’t reach for it then.” and then says “Don’t pull it out.” At this time Yanez starts to slowly remove his gun from it’s holster recognizing that the potential threat to his life is growing larger by the second. You can see Yanez then reach deep into the vehicle with his left arm, and from his initial statement to investigators he said he did this in order to try to block Castile from reaching for whatever it was he was reaching for.
Now let’s stop and use some common sense here. If Castile had simply complied with the officer’s lawful order of “Don’t reach for it then” I find it EXTREMELY unlikely that Yanez would have even unholstered his weapon much less fired shots. Castile says, “I’m not pulling it out.”
Now, this statement of “I’m not pulling it out” makes everyone think that Castile couldn’t possibly still be a threat to Yanez. After all, he’s telling him that he’s not pulling it out. Here’s the problem. People lie to police all the time. For all Yanez knew Castile was telling him that to lull him into a false sense of security so that he could shoot him. I don’t know if that’s the case or not. I think it’s more likely that Castile, being high, just couldn’t make sense of Yanez’ order “Don’t reach for it, then” in a timely manner. Perhaps given a few more seconds and several more loud verbal orders to stop reaching for it would have done the trick. But whatever the case was, it’s pretty clear that Castile was still reaching for SOMETHING after being told not to reach for it.
Now put yourself in the officer’s shoes. You’ve just pulled someone over who you think may be a suspect in an armed robbery. That alone is going to cause your sense of danger to already be elevated a little more than normal. You smell marijuana when he rolls the window down so now you’ve got someone who may believe they are going to jail and may not want to go to jail (especially since there was a child in the car which escalates the charge to a more severe one than simple DWI or DUI). So that is going to make your sense of danger a little more elevated. Now you have the man informing you that he most definitely DOES have a gun SOMEWHERE. Now your sense of danger is rising even more. Then the man starts reaching for something. Now your sense of danger is rising even more. You tell the man 3 times to stop reaching for it but he ignores what you say and continues to reach. Now your sense of danger is at an extremely high level. Taking all of that into consideration, who WOULDN’T be afraid?
Can you really say, taking all of that into account, that the officer was completely and utterly unreasonable to believe his life may be in danger, beyond a reasonable doubt?
Here’s the most relevant portion of the transcript where Yanez was interviewed by investigators just 15 hours after the shooting…
Yanez: “I smelled burnt marijuana. And then I see a female child in the back. And then I see a front seat passenger, adult female uh in the front seat. And then I see the suspect up driving, seatbelt on leaned back in his seat. he had his, left arm over the steering wheel and then he had both hands in view. And then…”
Yanez: “Initially. And then I told them the reason for the traffic stop and then I wasn’t going to say anything about the marijuana yet because I didn’t want to scare him or have him react in a defensive manner. Um, he didn’t make direct eye contact with me and it was very hard to hear him. Uh he was almost mumbling when he was talking to me. And he was directing his voice away from me as he was speaking as I was asking questions. Uh he kept his, hands in view and then I uh I believe I asked for, his license and insurance. And then I believe they told me, they asked me the reason for my traffic stop. And I told ’em the reason was the only, I think I told ’em the only rea, the reason I pulled you over is because the only active brake light working was the rear passenger side brake light.”
Yanez: “And then I received the insurance and then I can’t remember if I asked for his ID or not but I, I know I asked for his ID or his driver’s license. And then he goes I have a gun. And as I’m telling him or as he’s telling me that he’s reaching down between his right leg, his right thigh area and the center console.”
Yanez: “And he’s reaching down and I believe I’m telling him something along the lines of don’t reach for it, don’t do it. Referring to the, uh the firearm.”
Yanez: “Because usually people that carry firearms carry ’em on their waistband. Um and or in between the seats and being that the vehicle smelled the inside of the vehicle smelled like marijuana um I didn’t know if he was keeping it on him for protection, for, from a, a drug dealer or anything like that or any other people trying to rip him. Rip him meaning steal from him.”
Investigator: “Rob him.”
Yanez: “Um rob him. Um and I couldn’t see uh the area wi, where he was reaching his hand down towards.”
Yanez: “And I, believe I continued to tell him don’t do it or don’t reach for it and he still continued to move. And, it appeared to me that he had no regard to what I was saying. He didn’t care what I was saying. He still reached down.”
Investigator: “He didn’t stop moving his hand?”
Yanez: “He didn’t stop reaching, for his hand, he he didn’t stop moving his hand and it still went down.”
Yanez: “As he was reaching down um he, turned his shoulder kept his left hand on the steering wheel and then canted his upper body and blocked my view of his right hand.”
Yanez: “And, at that point I, was scared and I was, in fear for my life and my partner’s life. And for the little girl in the back and the front seat passenger and he dropped his hand down and, can’t remember what I was telling him but I was telling something as his hand went down I think. And, he put his hand around something. And his hand made like a C shape type um type shape and it appeared to me that he was wrapping something around his fingers and almost like if I were to put my uh hand around my gun like putting my hand up to the butt of the gun.”
Yanez: “That’s what it appeared to me.”
Yanez: “And then I lost view of it. Cuz he kept canting his shoulder and then I believe I told him again I can’t remember don’t do it. And then he still kept moving his hand and at this point I looked and saw something in his hand. It was dark inside the vehicle. I was trying to fumble my way through under stress to look and see what it was to make sure uh what I was seeing. But I wasn’t given enough time and like I said he had no regard for what I was saying. Didn’t follow my direction. And uh, he started reaching out and then pulling uh away from his uh his right thigh. I don’t know if it was in his pocket or in between the seats or the center console. But I, I know he had an object and it was dark. And he was pulling it out with his right hand. And as he was pulling it out, a million things started going through my head. And I thought I was gonna die. And, I was scared because, I didn’t know if he was gonna, I didn’t know what he was gonna do. he just had somethin’ uh his hands and he, the first words that he said to me were, some of the first words he said is that he had a gun. And I thought he was reaching for the gun. I thought he had the gun in his hand, in his right hand. And I thought he had it enough to where all he had to do is just pull it out, point it at me, move his trigger finger down on the trigger and let off rounds. And I had no other option than, to take out my firearm and, I shot. Um I shot him.”
The full transcript can be read here
Now, if you still disagree with the jury’s verdict here that’s your right. But in light of all of the evidence, I don’t see how anyone, much less a Christian, can say with certainty that officer Yanez had absolutely no reason to be afraid for his life. The jury of 12 people, who had access to all of the evidence and heard arguments from both sides decided that the officer was reasonable in believing his life was in danger, including two black jurors. So if you’re wanting to call him a murderer and judge the intentions of his heart when you have ABSOLUTELY NO WAY to know what the intentions of his heart were, then you need to stop and repent. Because you’re slandering this officer. Want to say officer Yanez should have given Castile more time to comply? You can say that, just remember it wasn’t your life on the line out there. It wasn’t your wife that could potentially be widowed or your child that could potentially be fatherless. So really even to sit and armchair quarterback whether or not he should have felt threatened is the height of arrogance, especially if you’ve never donned the uniform and faced those dangers yourself.