About a year ago, the world was visibly shaken by a livestream that captured the final moments of Philando Castile, a cafeteria supervisor and licensed gun owner who was gunned down by a Minnesota cop minutes after he was pulled over for a broken tail light.
Castile, 32, who was asked to provide identification, disclosed to then Officer Jeronimo Yanez, 29, his possession of a firearm in the pocket where he would later reach to obtain his wallet. Despite assuring that he was only trying to oblige the officer’s request, a nervous Yanez rang off seven shots in the presence of Castile’s daughter and fiancee, Diamond Reynolds, who quickly pulled out her phone to document the incident on Facebook Live.
About a year later, Yanez, who was charged with manslaughter and two counts of dangerous charge of a firearm, was acquitted of all charges. About a year later, the videos of the encounter and its aftermath, from the lens of the police cruiser (the videos that were used by the jury in their deliberation) were made public and would further incite feelings of anger and grief for the death of yet another innocent black man at the hands of the police in the African American community.
In the first video Yanez walks up to the car and explains to Castile that he is being pulled over for a broken tail light. After what seems to be a calm conversation, everything takes a turn for the worst shortly after Castile’s mention of a gun. Yanez grabs his gun, repeatedly shouting at Castile to not touch his firearm and then proceeds to shoot him. He shouts expletives and continues pointing the gun as he calls for help. Castile’s daughter is escorted out of the car and Reynolds is taken into custody. When the help arrives, they administer CPR, which by then is too late.
In an interrogation on July 7, 2016, one day after the gruesome occurrence, Yanez admitted to pulling Castile over for his resemblance to the suspect of a robbery. He claimed that Castile was being defensive and disobedient.
“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,” said Yanez, according to transcripts that were released. “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…”
Yanez also mentioned, on more than one occasion, that the car reeked of marijuana. He admitted that his fear was a result of Castile’s lack of regard for smoking in front of his daughter.
“I thought, I was gonna die and I thought ….if he has 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,” he said.
In the second video, Castile’s daughter and a handcuffed Reynolds are seen in the back of a police car. As Reynolds screams in disbelief, her daughter begs, “Mom, please stop cussing and screaming cause I don’t want you to get shooted.” She promises to keep her mother safe and then begins to cry. Reynolds struggles to get the handcuffs off and is met with with another request from her daughter. “No, please don’t. I don’t want you to get shooted,” she said… “Don’t take them off. If you take them off you get everything started.” She continues to cry wishing their town was safer and is told by Reynolds to relay that message once again to the police.
Since the release of the videos, people, including the likes of Shaun King and Roland Martin have expressed their anger for the jury’s decision and questioned the NRA’s silence in a matter that involves a licensed gun owner. Perhaps, the most notable rant was from a segment on Trevor Noah’s show. In it, the comedian took a break from his jokes to discuss his opinions on the dashcam footage.
“I won’t lie to you. When I watched this video, it broke me,” said Noah. “You see so many of these videos and you start to get numb, but this one? Seeing the child, that little girl, getting out of the car after watching a man get killed, it broke my heart into little pieces.”
He admires Reynold’s ability to remain reserved after seeing her boyfriend get shot and questions what more Castile could have done to get some sort of justice. How he ends the segment leaves us all with some food for thought.
“It’s one thing to have the system against you — the district attorneys, the police unions, the courts — that’s one thing,” said the Daily Show host. “But when a jury of your peers, your community, sees this evidence and then decides that even this is self-defense? That is truly depressing. Because what they’re basically saying is in America, it is officially reasonable to be afraid of a person just because they are black.”
Written By: Sweenie Saint-Vil