Op-Ed

Philando Castile Verdict – Not a Victory for Law Enforcement

It’s a topic that continues to rouse debate and rancor. Today Old Man hernandez weighs in on it. Mad Duo

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Philando Castile Verdict – Not a Victory for Law Enforcement

Chris Hernandez

When Philando Castile was killed by police officer Jeronimo Yanez last year, I didn’t immediately speak out. I watched the video Castile’s girlfriend live-streamed, and understood it was highly inflammatory but didn’t show the actual shooting or what sparked it. Yanez’s near-panicked response after the shooting caught my attention, but I knew better than to make judgments based on public outrage or gut feeling. So I held off.

Last week Yanez was found not guilty of manslaughter in Castile’s death. I again held my tongue, and even argued online that I couldn’t give an informed opinion because I had no idea what the jury saw or heard that could have justified their decision. So I waited for the information I knew would soon come out.

Aside from not knowing the facts, I’m also biased against public outrage toward cops. I’ve been a cop 23 years and know that the media often portrays police incidents inaccurately. I’ve seen news stories about incidents I was involved in that distorted facts, and I’ve been misquoted and misidentified by a journalist (she identified me as “Officer Chris Martinez”). I’ve studied alleged incidents of racist cops murdering innocent black men for no reason, and almost every one was deliberately twisted to serve a narrative. I believe that in principle a cop should use as much force as necessary as soon as necessary, and I understand the grey areas we work in where force isn’t a math equation and doesn’t work the way Average Joe thinks it does.

After the Ferguson outrage I wrote an article explaining why the shooting of Michael Brown was justified, and the investigation showed it was in fact justified. I wrote an article explaining why the shooting of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge was justified, and that investigation also showed  it was a good shooting. In another article I showed that the shooting of Tamir Rice in Cleveland, although tragic and understandably infuriating, was understandable based on what the officers reasonably believed at the time.

In another article I wrote that although the arrest of Eric Garner was petty and unnecessary, there was no reason to believe the officers involved had any intent to kill anyone. On the other hand I also wrote an article calling for the prosecution of a California officer for an incredibly stupid shooting; even though that one was bad, I know such incidents are exceedingly rare. So I had good reason to believe the evidence would show Yanez was justified in shooting Castile.

Much information has now come out. While I’m sure I don’t have all of it, I have enough to understand the dynamics of the shooting, the realities that couldn’t have been known until afterward, and the facts as Yanez understood them when he pulled the trigger. I understand the shooting well enough to determine what I would have done had I been there, and compare Yanez’s actions to what I did in similar situations.

And I’ve decided there is no way this shooting was justified.

The Dynamics of the Shooting:

On July 6th, 2016, St. Anthony, Minnesota PD Officer Jeronimo Yanez saw Philando Castile driving with his girlfriend. The girlfriend’s daughter was in the back seat. Yanez thought Castile resembled one of two suspects in a recent robbery; before the stop, he radioed that “The driver looks more like one of our suspects just ’cause of the wide-set nose,” and later said Castile gave him a “deer in the headlights look” as they passed each other. He stopped Castile for a defective brake light, then he and his partner approached the vehicle in a normal, non-high risk manner.

Yanez told Castile the reason for the traffic stop. Castile was polite and cooperative. The rest of the stop went like this:

“Yanez asks for Castile’s driver’s license and insurance. [This transcript doesn’t note it, but Castile gave Yanez his insurance card but not his license.]

Thirty seconds into the conversation, Castile begins to tell Yanez that he has a weapon.

Castile: Sir, I have to tell you I do have a …

Yanez: OK.

Castile: … firearm on me.

Yanez: OK

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 [Castile’s girlfriend]: He’s not.

Yanez: Don’t pull it out.

Yanez, whose hand had been near his gun, pulls out his weapon and fires seven rapid shots into the car, striking Castile five times.”

The dash camera video shows that the elapsed time from first word spoken by Yanez to the last shot was forty seconds. Yanez fired his first shot eight seconds after Castile notified him he was armed.

Castile lost consciousness as his girlfriend live-streamed the aftermath of the shooting, and died shortly afterward.

What Yanez Couldn’t Have Known At The Time

Castile was carrying a .40 caliber pistol in his right front pocket. The magazine was loaded, chamber empty. His carry permit and license were in his wallet.

Castile’s pistol. Photo credit TwinCities.com.

Castile had no history of violence or criminal history worse than traffic offenses, and no connection to the robbery Yanez thought he might have been involved in. He was on his way back home from a grocery store when he was stopped, and wasn’t committing any crime save two: his license was suspended, and he had a small bag of marijuana in the car. The marijuana is significant, for reasons I’ll explain later.

Marijuana in Castile’s back seat. TwinCities.com photo.

What Yanez Perceived.

Yanez fired because he thought Castile was reaching for his weapon. After the shooting another officer questioned Yanez about why he fired, and Yanez said he saw Castile “reaching down between his right leg, his right thigh area and the center console.” He went on to say,

“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 be had no regard to what I was saying. He didn’t care what I was saying. He still reached down… 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…”

Later in the interview he said Castile’s hand looked like it was “wrapped around the butt of a gun…I just knew it was dark and I could barely see and I thought it was a firearm and I thought he was gonna shoot and kill me and I thought he was gonna shoot and kill my partner right after that.”

So I’ll List All the Reasons I Think This Shooting was Wrong

1) Background.

After a criminal like Alton Sterling is killed by police, we hear his friends and family claim he was a wonderful soul who’d never hurt anyone. We’re absolutely right to dismiss those claims; family and friends can ALWAYS be expected to defend a loved one, no matter what. But Philando Castile, by the officer’s account, the dash cam video and his criminal history, was not a “criminal.”

Some people will undoubtedly argue that point by saying “He was driving on a suspended license and had drugs in the car.” My response is, “So what?” Plenty of people who aren’t criminals have suspended licenses. Anyone down on their luck can let their insurance lapse, which can then lead to a ticket they can’t pay, which then leads to a suspended license. A suspension can mean a drunk driving or drug arrest, but not always. And he had a personal use amount of marijuana in the car, not a kilo. If smoking marijuana makes people criminals, a lot of service members, regular working people and even cops are or were criminals.

According to Heavy.com, Castile had received 55 tickets and been arrested twice for minor drug offenses. There were no drunk driving charges, and both drug charges were dismissed. Castile wasn’t a bad, dangerous criminal. As far as I can tell, there is no indication whatsoever that Castile was actually drawing on Yanez; Castile’s background, character, and dozens of previous stops without resistance don’t suggest he would have.

2) Context.

When Yanez walked up to Castile’s car and began the stop, he encountered a polite, cooperative, noncriminal driver with what appeared to be his wife and daughter during daylight hours. Nothing in the context of the stop indicated Castile was a threat. If you counter with “But Yanez thought Castile was a robbery suspect,” Yanez’s own actions disprove that. He didn’t conduct a felony stop like we would if we were stopping a dangerous felony suspect, he conducted a regular stop and approached in a casual manner. Yanez said he thought Castile was drawing on him, and I don’t see anything in the context of the stop to make that a reasonable assumption.

If you chase a murder suspect into a dark alley at 2 a.m. and he stops, turns around, says “I’m gonna kill you, pig” and reaches under his shirt, shoot. I’ll cheer for you and back you up 100%. But if you stop a regular, polite family guy who hasn’t committed any crime you’re aware of, who informs you he’s carrying and reaches toward his waist after you’ve told him to get his license, give him the benefit of the doubt. React as necessary, draw if you have to, take cover behind the pillar or whatever, but I’d highly discourage you from escalating to lethal force just based on him “reaching.”

And again, the pistol was carried with an empty chamber. Seriously, should we think this calm, cooperative, noncriminal driver with no history of violence and his girlfriend and a little girl in the car was going to pull his empty-chamber pistol from his pocket, load a round and shoot the officer?

3) Instructions.

Castile had a reason to reach for something: Yanez asked him for his license and insurance, he had only given Yanez his insurance and still had to give Yanez his license.

Philando Castile’s car insurance card. TwinCities.com photo.

After Castile told Yanez he was armed, Yanez told him “Don’t reach for it.” He didn’t say “Hands up,” “Hands on the steering wheel,” or “Freeze.” He simply told Castile not to reach for his gun, and a reasonable person who’s just been ordered to hand over his license but not touch his gun would think it was okay to grab his wallet. I can almost guarantee when Castile said “I’m not reaching for it,” he really wasn’t and was simply reaching for his license.

On any stop, it is not the driver’s job to figure out what we mean, it’s our job to give clear, easily-understandable instructions. Yanez didn’t do that.

4) Location of the gun.

Yanez said Castile reached between his right leg and the console. That’s not where the gun was. Two police officers said they saw the gun hanging out of Castile’s right pocket when he was loaded onto a gurney, one paramedic said he saw it slide out of Castile’s right pocket onto the street, and another said he saw an officer reach into Castile’s right pocket and recover it; whatever the exact circumstances of the gun’s recovery, everyone agrees the gun was in his right pocket.

Yanez said at one point that he saw the gun’s barrel, then said he misspoke and saw the gun’s slide, but at the scene he told a supervisor he never saw the gun and Castile never told him where it was. Since we know the gun was in Castile’s pocket after he was shot, should we believe Castile drew it far enough for Yanez to see the slide, then in the few seconds between being shot and losing consciousness put it back in far enough that it didn’t come out until he was pulled from the car and laid on the street?

Besides that, I’ve pocket carried quite a bit. One of the drawbacks of pocket carry is that it’s hard as hell to draw when seated. Maybe it’s easier if you’re wearing really baggy shorts, and maybe Castile was wearing baggy shorts. But in my experience, drawing from your right pocket while seated in a car requires you to lift your hips and rotate them left to get your pocket clear of the seat belt. Nothing on the video or in anyone’s testimony suggests Castile raised or rotated his hips to get access to his weapon.

5) “I was scared because I smelled marijuana.” Gimme a f**king break.

Yanez said this about the odor of marijuana that was present in the car. It’s one of the most incredible things I’ve ever heard a cop claim:

“As that was happening as [Castile] was pulling at, out his hand I thought, I was gonna die and I thought if he’s, if he has the, the guts and the audacity to smoke marijuana in front of the five year old girl and risk her lungs and risk her life by giving her secondhand smoke and the front seat passenger doing the same thing then what, what care does he give about me. And, I let off the rounds and then after the rounds were off, the little girl was screaming.”

Marijuana doesn’t make people homicidally violent, and tends to produce the exact opposite effect. If Yanez had walked up and seen the dark glass vials associated with PCP or smelled the strong chemical scent of meth, yes I can see why he’d tense up. I would too. A smell of marijuana might mean you’re about to have a fight on your hands because the driver doesn’t want to go to jail, but it doesn’t mean someone high on marijuana is somehow more dangerous.

I’ve never seen or heard of any studies indicating marijuana makes people violent, and my experience on the street from just about day one led me to believe drunks are way more violent than potheads. All else being equal I’d prefer to deal with a pothead over a drunk any day of the week, and I suspect most cops with street experience feel the same way. I’ve walked up on numerous cars that reeked of marijuana, and personally can’t remember ever getting scared of the driver’s “audacity.” Someone exposing a child to secondhand pot smoke shouldn’t equal “This guy is about to kill me.”

Recently I worked a large public event where cops and families were present, and some people in the crowd were smoking marijuana. Those people had the audacity to smoke around cops and children, but none of them went crazy and started murdering people. Yanez’s statement about how dangerous Castile was because he was smoking marijuana (at some point, we don’t know exactly when) is so incredibly stupid I almost can’t believe he said it.

I strongly suspect Yanez made that statement solely as justification for the shooting, and doesn’t really believe it. His attorney argued that Castile was high and therefore couldn’t follow directions, but I call shenanigans on both those claims. Pot doesn’t make you a homicidal maniac and Castile was following directions, as I explained earlier.

More than photography and videography. Check it out and see just WTF we mean by that.

Put all that together:

A calm peaceful driver legally carrying a pistol who didn’t do anything violent or dangerous politely told an officer he was armed and followed the officer’s instructions to get his wallet but was then shot because the officer thought he was reaching for a gun in a place where the gun actually wasn’t because the officer smelled marijuana and thought it meant the driver was homicidally dangerous. Does that make sense to anyone?

Does it make sense that Yanez would fire seven times at almost contact range and miss twice, putting one round sixteen inches away from the little girl he thought he had to protect from secondhand pot smoke?

Am I missing something here?

Yanez’s acquittal wasn’t a victory for law enforcement, it was a defeat. It was a message that cops can be expected to panic over nothing, to shoot upon the slightest provocation, and get a pass if they make the most ridiculous, flimsiest excuses for being “in fear.” It was a message to the public to expect less, not more, courage, dedication and bravery from cops. The not guilty verdict wasn’t something to cheer, and I can’t understand the pro-LE web sites saying it proves the shooting was justified or complaining about Yanez being fired.

Those who protest that Castile’s girlfriend lied about officers not providing first aid or showed callousness by live-streaming instead of helping him are off the mark. Her actions afterward aren’t the issue. What matters here are Castile’s and Yanez’s actions from the first contact until the last shot was fired. As far as I can tell Castile did literally nothing wrong, but Yanez panicked over nothing and killed an innocent man. For the record, I think Yanez honestly believed he was in danger. I think he honestly panicked. That doesn’t mean he was right to believe he was in danger, and it doesn’t make his panic understandable. Cops are trained, expected and paid to operate at a higher standard than irrational panic. We owe it to the public to hold ourselves to that higher standard.

If you’re a cop you may want to take a hard look at this shooting, understand why so many people are understandably angry about it, and work at both the policy and personal levels to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

Philando Castile, Rest In Peace.

-CH


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www.breachbangclear.com_site_images_Chris_Hernandez_Author_BreachBangClear4About the Author: Chris Hernandez, seen here on patrol in Afghanistan, may just be the crustiest member of the eeeee-LITE writin’ team here at Breach-Bang-ClearHe is a veteran of both the Marine Corps and the Army National Guard who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. He is also a veteran police officer of two decades who spent a long (and eye-opening) deployment as part of a UN police mission in Kosovo. He is the author of White Flags & Dropped Rifles – the Real Truth About Working With the French Army and The Military Within the Military as well as the modern military fiction novels Line in the Valley, Proof of Our Resolve and Safe From the War. When he isn’t groaning about a change in the weather and snacking on Osteo Bi-Flex he writes on his own blog. You can find his author page here on Tactical 16.

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Mad Duo Chris
Chris Hernandez may just be the crustiest member of the eeeee-LITE writin’ team here at Breach-Bang-Clear. He is a veteran of both the Marine Corps and the Army National Guard who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. He is also a veteran police officer of two decades who spent a long (and eye-opening) deployment as part of a UN police mission in Kosovo. He is the author of White Flags & Dropped Rifles – the Real Truth About Working With the French Army and The Military Within the Military as well as the modern military fiction novels Line in the Valley, Proof of Our Resolve and Safe From the War. When he isn’t groaning about a change in the weather and snacking on Osteo Bi-Flex he writes on his own blog.

85 Comments

  1. MN Resident, I took that same training but it strikes me as inadequate. “Tell the officer you have a weapon and ask how he wants to handle it” is another way of saying “The officer will make up something on the side of the road and if you fail to comply, you die.” Larpenteur is a busy 4-lane street with truck traffic going by the officer; can the hear the driver clearly? There’s an angry woman in the car and a crying kid; can the driver hear the officer clearly? Even if they can hear each other, how does the driver interpret “Give me your license but don’t reach for your gun” when they’re both in the same pocket? The driver should have more sense? But the driver’s not in control of the encounter, the officer is. The driver is following instructions and it got him killed. Seems to me there should be a standard protocol for Encounters with Lawfully Armed Citizens, approved by POST, adopted in every agency, role-played by every cop and permitted carrier. Like this one: http://www.shotinthedark.info/wp/?p=63559

  2. Last year, I took a class in self defense law given by a lawyer who specializes in use of force. Much of his practice is representing police officers. The class included two examples in which innocent people were shot. In one case, the shooters were police officers. In the other, it was a private citizen. The common factor in both was that each side jumped to an incorrect conclusion about the other and misconstrued the other’s subsequent actions as confirmation of the initial error. The Yanez/Castile incident looks like more of the same. They will continue until both sides ask themselves, “Can my instruction/question/action reasonably be misconstrued by the other person?” and then take steps to prevent that from happening.

    1. One thing that really bugs me is the often-repeated insistence that Castile “should have known not to reach for anything.” It’s not the driver’s job to divine the officer’s meaning, it’s his job to follow clear instructions. Yanez didn’t give give clear instructions, and there’s nothing crazy about a driver carrying with a permit reaching for his license and not his gun.

      Thanks for your input, and stay safe. For future reference, if you get stopped I’d suggest just leaving your hands on the wheel until you inform the officer you’re carrying and where you’re carrying, then asking for instructions.

  3. Great analysis. Terrible shoot. Yanez should have been convicted. In Colorado we have no duty to inform LEO we are carrying with our CCW. After this shooting I no longer volunteer that information. I had thought it was better to inform and put the LEO at ease. I’m actually a good citizen. Yanez is a case in point, some LEO’S shouldn’t have a badge.

  4. “The reasonableness of a particular use of force must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, rather than with the 20/20 vision of hindsight.”

    Mr. Hernandez, that quote is from a little case I know for a fact you have encountered in your career. Graham v. Conner is the standard, sir. Looking at this incident with that standard in mind, based upon the totality of the facts and circumstances known to him at the time, Officer Yanez’s actions were objectively reasonable.

    So while you personally might feel, after a careful review of facts not known to Officer Yanez at the time and after applying your ideas on how a pretextual stop of a possible robbery suspect should be conducted, and your very own subjective beliefs regarding the effects of marijuana, and your very own imaginings regarding the thought process, motivations and intentions of Mr. Castile, that he did not conduct this stop the exact same way an all knowing Officer Hernandez might have, the fact remains that Officer Yanez’s actions remain objectively reasonable, sir.

    It’s stunning to me that an officer of your experience could come to a different conclusion.

      1. Jack, you are f-ing high! “The reasonableness of a particular use of force must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, rather than with the 20/20 vision of hindsight.” A civilian would be going to jail for the exact actions this “scared” officer took. I hope karma visits that officer sooner than later.

    1. SC Trooper Sean Groubert shot an unarmed driver in 2014 because he thought the driver was reaching for a weapon. Groubert judged that he had to shoot, based on what he “reasonably” perceived as aggressive action by the driver. Was he justified in shooting an unarmed man, solely because he perceived a threat?

      In a larger context, does any use of force by a police officer become reasonable simply because he thinks he’s under threat? If so, then Groubert should never have been charged or convicted.

      1. Mr. Hernandez, are you asking me to explain Graham v. Conner to you? You have been doing this almost as long as I have, do you honestly not understand that particular case law? Or are you trying to make it seem as if I said something that I did not, and throwing in an unrelated OIS to cloud the issue?

        You ask is any use of force reasonable simply because a police officer thinks he’s under threat? Of course not sir, and that’s not what the Supreme Court established as the reasonableness standard in that case, as I have no doubt you are very well aware.

        If you want to have a separate discussion about the Trooper Groubert OIS, we could do that. It might be interesting. But it really has nothing to do with this particular discussion.

        1. Yes it does. The Groubert shooting shows an officer can resort to deadly force against a perceived threat and still be unreasonable and unlawful. Everyone seems to agree that Castile wasn’t really drawing on Yanez, so the question is whether or not Yanez mistakenly but reasonably believed he was being drawn on. I say no, due to the reasons I’ve already listed. Simply claiming “I was in fear for my life” doesn’t make that fear reasonable.

          1. It relates to this only in the context that both OIS featured white officers shooting unarmed, black drivers following traffic stops. It’s not relevant in determining whether OFC Yanez’s actions were reasonable or unreasonable.

            You are right, simply saying, “I was in fear for my life,” doesn’t make that fear reasonable. Nowhere have I said that is the standard of reasonableness defined in Graham v. Conner. The standard is, would a reasonable officer in the same circumstances acted the same way as Officer Yanez?

            In your case, obviously, the answer to that question is “no.” The problem is, sir, that you base your determination on the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, not on the fact that Officer Yanaez had to make a split-second judgment in a circumstance that was tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving.

            You have the luxury of nit picking the situation apart at your leisure, applying your own logic and belief system, and then judging Officer Yanez by your own standards of what constitutes a reasonable use of force. However, in this country we don’t determine reasonableness based on the Hernadez Standard.

          2. The incident did not happen that fast, and it wasn’t tense, uncertain or rapidly evolving. It was a polite, cooperative driver likely reaching for a wallet after being asked for his license, and likely following orders to not reach for a gun.

  5. Mr Hernandez,
    Would it be fair to say, that officer Yanez is too excitable to be a public safety officer?

  6. Hey Chris, thanks for responding to the rebuttal article I wrote. Figured I’d reply here instead of on my own article as this thread seems to be where most of the conversation is taking place.

    Perhaps I did overstep in saying Castile was high at the time of the shooting. I don’t suppose there’s any way at this point to prove that he was or wasn’t. Given that there was marijuana in the car, and Yanez smelled burnt marijuana when the window was rolled down, and he said Castile wasn’t making eye contact and was directing his words away from Yanez face, and that his girlfriend had prior Facebook live videos that show her smoking while the child is in the car, my guess is that they were both high at the time. That’s just an educated guess based on all the circumstances, not air tight proof that he was high, so I’ll concede that point.

    Regardless, the point was that Castile had plenty of motive to try to get away if he had any inclination to do so, which I don’t think he did but who knows that’s just another thing we have to guess on.

    If Castile didn’t match the description of the robbery suspect and Yanez didn’t smell marijuana and Castile was making solid eye contact during the stop perhaps Yanez wouldn’t have felt so threatened even if Castile had continued reaching after Yanez said “don’t reach for it”. But with the totality of the circumstances I still don’t think the shooting was unreasonable. I guess I can understand why you may disagree, but I’m glad that you agree that there was reasonable doubt that Yanez was guilty.

    Certainly a tragic situation for all involved, and I know that I will be more specific in my instructions to citizens going forward, so at least something was learned from it.

    Thanks for the chat brother, stay safe out there.

    1. Just curious, how much more specific do you have to be than ” don’t reach for it, Don’t pull it out” 3 x total?

      1. This is easy…..”Don’t reach for it.” Mr. Castile said, “I am not.” Which he trying to get his DL. Castile erroneously believed the officer was good with his hands moving when getting his DL. Sometimes it takes a few seconds for a brain to interpret commands, when accents, and different jargon is involved. Be safe out there.

        1. And exactly how do you know what Castile believed? And youre 100%, bet your life certain he wasn’t reaching for his gun?

      1. He wasn’t and the civilian lost his life on the officers bet! I am SICK and tired of cops getting away with murder and/or negligent homicide. The cop should find another career and all of you jumpy cops out there, as a minimum get rid of your glocks. This lawyer-eze some of you are spouting is typical for illegal shoots. The officer is guilty of negligent homicide as a minimum.

  7. I am a cop, in Minnesota in the metro where this occurred. A few things that need to be emphasized that lead up to this. The armed robbery suspect looked like Castile, Similar in age, long dread locked hair pulled and a thin beard along the chin line. The robbery happened just over a mile away from where this traffic stop occurred a few days before their encounter. The St. Anthony Police Dept was the investigating agency as well. We have all passed someone in cars going the opposite directions and think to ourselves “was that someone we know”. Yanzez thought the same thing. Wanting to ID the driver of the vehicle to see if it may be the suspect, Yanez turned around in a four lane road. When doing this he called out on the radio that he was going to stop the car for he thought it may be the suspect. Not wanting to get into an accident when turning around on a road like this we have all called out something on the radio that came out partial. In pursuit drivers training we even prepare for this type of situation, when performing basic maneuvers we are asked to recite something such as the alphabet, sport teams or types of soft drinks. Its amazing how even simple things while driving the car become complex and we can make mistakes. With this thought, I completely understand Yanez calling out “the suspect had a wide nose” when giving a reason for stopping the car on the radio while turning around to follow the car.
    There is a lot of debate on why he did not perform a felony stop, calling the suspects out of the vehicle, if he thought it was an armed robbery suspect. There was an unbelted child in the car along a female passenger. If we perform a felony stop were calling out all the adults. When this occurs more often than not with a small child in the car, there is a concern that the child will crawl out and go to a parent. This causes several dangerous issues. Not the least of having a small child in a busy four lane road that could get struck but also having the child in the possible line of fire if things went south. Remember, Yanez was stopping the car to ID the driver who looked similar to the suspect from the robbery that occurred near by that he caught a glimpse of but for just a second. Yanez waited for back up before conducting the stop. The legal basis for the stop was the taillight malfunction.
    As he approached the vehicle Officer Yanez had the mindset that this could be the suspect, not the confirmation that it was.
    As he spoke with the driver, Castile stated that he must inform the officer that he had a firearm. After being told twice not to reach for it, from what we can ascertain Castile kept his hand in the proximity of the firearm. Castiles judgement was more than likely affected by the use of marijuana. There was a substantial personal use amount found in the vehicle after the shooting. Also his girlfriend had posted several recent FB live videos of the two of them consuming marijuana in the vehicle with the child in there as well as recent as the day prior to this event.
    Could this have been handled a variety of ways differently by all involved, yes. But that is the luxury of review after the fact and not in the unfolding moments of the incident as it occurred. I stand behind Yanez and his actions, for as the legal requirements for the use of deadly force per Minnesota Statue was there. What would a reasonable person do under the same circumstances in the same situation at that same time. Castile had the means (A firearm), the opportunity (close proximity) and the Intent as perceived from the person using Deadly Force (The mindset of the officer for the stop, the suspect not stopping his actions with his hand still in the perceived proximity of the firearm).
    In Minnesota the person with a Permit to Carry does not have to inform the officer that he is carrying. However training companies that offer the Permit to Carry Course which is a prerequisite for obtaining a permit are supposed to offer a section on Law Enforcement Encounters. In this section it is stressed that Law Enforcement Encounters most happen during traffic stops. If this were to occur the Permit Holder should not reach for drivers license or proof of insurance until asked for it. The driver should make the scene safer for the officer and the legally armed driver by rolling the drivers window down, turning on the dome light and placing their hands on the steering wheel. After the officer makes the initial contact with the driver and the officer asks for license and proof of insurance (in MN) the driver should then make a statement along the lines of, “Officer I have a Valid Permit to Carry. My firearm is located (tell them the location). What would you like me to do?”. This tells the officer that you are a legal permit holder and have gone through a background check, taking a firearms safety course and are alerting the officer that there is a firearm involved in the situation. If the permit holder stated that they have a firearm first this brings unwarranted heightened tension to the situation. Making movements that would cause concern to the officer for their safety is dangerous for all involved as what unfolded in this situation with Castile. Even taking the marijuana and the fact that officer Yanez was of the mindset that this could be a armed robbery suspect out of the equation, Castile did not conduct the due diligence for his safety or for those in his car or the officer. Also, Yanez was not “fired”. As a matter of fact he was taken off leave with pay and put back on desk duty for a short time before being charged. Once the media published that he was forced to remain on paid leave. He is a non union city employee who can be dismissed at will. With the strong emotions that are still occurring, the city felt it best that he no longer works as a police officer. There are negotiations for a severance package for him.
    I hope that calmer heads will prevail as this settles down post-verdict of the trial and we can all learn from this in an effort to avoid a repeat of this scenario.

      1. Remember all good citizens…fear your police whenever you come into contact with them. They are worried about going home to their families…to bad about seeing yours. This “luxury of review” line? BS! You take a persons life for no reason other than you were ill prepared for the job? What would happen if a civilian did what this cop did? The cop did everything wrong and Mr. Castile died. He thought Castile could be a robbery suspect. That should have changed the cops whole approach.

    1. Thanks for the insight. I’ve had limited time to respond lately, but I just have a couple quick comments:

      1) There are ways to cautiously make a stop short of a felony stop. I frequently told drivers to put both hands out the window and didn’t approach until they complied. In this case, it wasn’t just the lack of a felony stop that suggests Yanez didn’t really believe Castile was the robber, it was the very casual approach.

      2) If Yanez did everything right and his actions were legal and reasonable, why would you say you “want to avoid a repeat of this scenario”?

      1. 1) It is difficult for us not to criticize after the fact because we were not there doing the stop. We could critique all we want for it is after the fact, Coulda, shoulda, woulda…but in the end it was the officers decision on how to handle the stop. There are multiple time we have done something where in the end we figure we should have done something different but we cant change the past.
        2) Even when all things go right, things still go wrong. We should learn from all incidents even when things go right. Even though Yanez was justified in his actions could things have been done different? How many times have we seen a incident where the officer was more than justified in using force but did not? Was it wrong? Did another officer/ Civilian/ Victim get hurt because of such lack of use of force? Again look at the answer in #1). Its the officer who makes the decisions

        1. The cop panicked and made up excuses after the shooting. He was told by Castile that he had a CCW. Most felons will inform the stopping cop of the fact right? Well, I hope the town goes broke paying for this one, it is not over yet. Note: I sound as if I wish ill on all cops, I do not. I just want bad cops and guilty cops to go to jail or as a minimum be fired. I am tired of the innocent civilian being blamed for getting themselves shot. Cops get paid for murdering someone and saying the magic words “I feared for my life”. Civilians have a very hard time justifying this in too many jurisdictions. Here in kalifornia, they cannot wait to prosecute a civilian using deadly force, but a cop…God bless them for making us safe (politicians saying this, not most of the citizens).

          1. Another example of someone THINKING they know things that are not so. Castile NEVER told Yanez he had a Permit to Carry. That is unequivocally known and proven. Most condemning Yanez are doing so with bits and pieces of information.