Dashcam Footage of Philando Castile Shooting Released
The dashcam footage of Officer Jeronimo Yanez’s traffic stop and subsequent shooting of driver Philando Castile has been released by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office. It includes audio from the officer’s body mic.
This is the audio of radio traffic between the squads. Interestingly, at 00:36 it sounds like someone is saying “felony stop,” but it’s hard to tell. The entirety of the radio conversation is not on the radio transcript. If he did say that, why the languid initial approach and seemingly relaxed body language of the backing officer? I don’t know, and my speculation (like that of many people reading this) does no one any good, and will have no impact on the trial. It’s already over.
In the video below you will see Yanez activate his lights, stop the car, and make contact with Castile (in a fashion that is patently not a felony stop). He immediately advises Castile of the PC for the stop (ostensibly, his brake lights were out). Approximately 16 seconds later he asks for license and registration, which Castile appears to provide. Yanez appears to examine the paperwork, and about 9 seconds later Castile tells Yanez he has a firearm.
(Note: the times below are from the specific video embedded below, and may not match others.)
01:11-01:12 Castile tells him he is armed, after handing him some sort documentation.
01:13-01:14 Yanez says, “Okay, don’t reach for it.”
01:17 Yanez reaches into the car with his left hand suddenly, clearly attempting to take physical action within the car. What that action actually was is unclear, but likely was an effort to restrain Castile or prevent a movement. Simultaneously, Yanez draws his weapon and says “Don’t pull it out.” At that point he is off center, leaning left, left arm in the vehicle from the shoulder down, head outside the window, right arm up with weapon pointed down inside. The backup officer at that point is just beginning to react.
01:18 Yanez’s support hand comes back to the weapon, which is now inside the vehicle, and he begins to shoot.
The child in the back seat exits the vehicle and is removed by the backup officer. Approximately 20 seconds later Yanez makes a radio call advising “shots fired.”
Whether Castile’s movements were sufficient to justify Yanez’s actions remains the central point of contention in both Yanez’s trial and in public debate. Castile obviously does something sufficient to make Yanez believe he was reaching for a weapon. We know this from Yanez yelling, “Don’t pull it out,”and (apparently) trying to restrain him before opening fire.
We do not have video of what those actions may — or may not — have been, however, which means we are left only with the testimony of Yanez himself and Castile’s girlfriend, both of which must obviously be considered with a filter.
Some insight may be gained from the backing officer’s testimony, but the rapidity of the event may have limited his ability to observe (and in any event would be sufficient to call his actions into question by a lawyer during the trial). Any insight from the girlfriend is equally suspect.
Was this as justified shooting? That should be the central point of discussion here (following some discourse on the reasoning for the initial stop), and frankly I still do not see anything so substantial as to prove it either way…which leaves me (and everyone else who wasn’t there, or on the jury) to conjecture.
We may surmise from the tone of Yanez’s voice that he was experiencing the cocktail of adrenaline and other chemicals anyone might reasonably expect after shooting someone at virtually contact range. Whether his voice and later utterances betrayed undue nervousness and panic or simply reflected an objectively reasonable SNS response is the second greatest point of contention in the case. It’s something no doubt being debated by thousands of people in offices, homes, and squad rooms across the country.
I don’t know the answer to that question. I know I’ve sounded this way myself — listening to the radio traffic of my first vehicle pursuit, I was mortified to hear what sounded like a shrieking pre-teen girl using my designator and calling mile markers. Who cares if his voice was shrill? I’m less concerned with how he sounded afterward than what went on before (including the reasoning for the stop) and during the event.
The accusations of racism and cowardice were, as expected, immediate. This is typical, and unfortunate. Like all other points pursuant to this Event, we only know what we know. We can’t immediately begin shouting Racism! any more than we can say Yanez is innocent because he’s a cop. They are equally egregious assumptions.
Such accusations also detract from any effort to identify and correct any problems that do exist — including potential bigotry in an officer or agency. Any police involved shooting should be considered within the totality of circumstances and viewed through the lens of that event.
Let me preempt fatuous or specious arguments that I’m defending Yanez, assuming Castile’s guilt, or somehow implying racism doesn’t exist: don’t be an idiot. Of course it does. I’ve seen it first hand. It should never be the go-to argument in every case, no more than the “obey the cop, don’t get shot” response should be the go-to response.
It’s easy for the Minnesota House People of Color and Indigenous Lawmakers Caucus to decry Castile’s death as the senseless result of prejudice. It’s a lot harder to actually through all the evidence, consider it carefully, and then take practical, practicable action to prevent it from happening again.
Maybe Yanez was a despicable bigot who wore a white hood at night and used vile epithets with more panache than a bag full of rappers. Maybe he was insufficiently trained by a mediocre department. Perhaps he was never suited to be a LEO to begin with, maybe he’s a cop who dicked the dog in a bad way, killing a man who’d done nothing wrong in front of his girlfriend and child, , or maybe he was a rock star cop with a great track record who had every reason to, or even should have, killed Castile.
Maybe none of it had anything whatsoever to do with the color of his skin.
Determining the truth, using all the evidence there is, should be our focus.
I don’t know if I’d have killed Castile, I wasn’t there, it wasn’t my traffic stop. It was Yanez’s traffic stop. I’d like to think I wouldn’t have — I don’t want to second guess the jury, I haven’t seen what they’ve seen, but it certainly seems like he (Yanez) overreacted…but I might have done exactly the same thing. I don’t know if I’d have retreated as the backup officer did, or if I’d have sprung into action, drawn my weapon and covered down on the vehicle’s occupants with one hand while snatching that little girl out of the back seat with other. I’d like to think the latter, but I don’t know, I wasn’t there.
I wish that little girl hadn’t been in the car. I wish one or both of those officers had been wearing body cams.
I wish all this race fuckery would go away; there’s plenty of other reasons to dislike people.
Hell, I wish I knew how to end this article. Ultimately a jury said Yanez was innocent, so it doesn’t matter what what I think.
The same thing goes for all of you reading this.
I guess I could quote my friend Matt, who said,
“As with all of these, it is a complete pointless act to comment on them anyway. There is one person who saw what he saw, and one person who knew his intent. One is dead and the other is explaining all he needs to to stay a free man.”
Or, Anthony (another friend) said,
“At the end of the day, there will always be cases that will simply never be fully understood. Even in the modern world of cameras, microphones, and social media there are still some areas where trust, training, and reason has to prevail on both sides.”
How nice it would be to get there.
You can examine all information released by the Minnesota Dept. of Public Safety regarding this case here on the MDPS Office of Communications website.
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