David French is a lawyer. I’m sure he’s confident in his perception of this issue. But he’s wrong.
In fact, it is perceptions that got Castile killed. Neither party were really wrong, but a confluence of events and perceptions created a moment where police deadly force was used.
If you watch carefully, two salient facts should emerge. First, Philando Castile was quite literally following the police officer’s instructions when he was shot. The officer asked for his license and told him not to reach for his gun. Castile reached for his license while verbally assuring the officer that he was not reaching for his gun. The officer shot him anyway.
The second fact overwhelmed the first. The officer panicked. His terror is palpable. The man went from conducting a relatively routine traffic stop to shrieking and firing in a matter of seconds. Part of this is understandable. Life can change in a flash, and when we’re in a state of ultimate distress, few of us can be as composed as SEAL Team Six.
When I saw that palpable panic, I immediately knew why he was acquitted. The unwritten law trumped the statutes on the books. The unwritten law is simple: When an officer is afraid, he’s permitted to shoot. Juries tend to believe that proof of fear equals proof of innocence.
Like a typical lawyer, French bolsters his argument with a totally unrelated event- the Scott shooting in SC. These two events have nothing to do with each other. Castille was not running from the police or fighting with the officer over his taser. Scott was not armed, nor did he fit the description of the robbery suspect. So, other than the police officer being not black, and the shooting victim black, there is NO OTHER resemblance. But why let facts get in the way of a good story, right David?
French is right in one way. Citizens who take on the uniform of law enforcement are not SEAL team six. So their ability to manage and work with a suddenly stressful and lethal event is not going to be as well honed. That said, those events happen thousands of times a year and nobody gets hurt.
What happened in the Castile case was not a criminal act. No more than a surgeon working on a patient and the patient dying on the table. Unless you can prove the surgeon went in with the intent to kill the patient, it is a civil settlement. Yes, your life has a monetary value, not always a criminal justice value. The reason it became criminal was due to the whole BLM movement frightening other lawyers- who happen to be prosecutors.
This fear is why what was a civil issue became a criminal one, and then ended back up as a civil settlement- as in the case of Mike Brown and Freddie Grey. Which, by the way, under normal circumstances only Grey should have paid out. Brown’s was just to keep the BLM from rioting again.
Let’s set some ground rules here:
A- This is important. There is a compact between citizens and the police, to work BOTH sides need to follow it. First part is that citizens gives another citizen (who has a little more training) the power over him to investigate, develop PC and make arrests. The citizen then complies with that arrest without resistance or violence to that officer. In return, the officer makes sure he does his level best to be unbiased and seek evidence fairly. If he does make the arrest, the officer must do it without violence and make sure the arrested citizen is delivered to the jail in good health. When that works, and it does a million times a year, nobody gets hurt. But when either side violates the contract, things go bad.
B- Nothing occurs in a vacuum. During this period of time, police were witnessing the resistance of blacks against police as part of the BLM movement. Violence was occurring with far greater frequency and with far less provocation. A black person could act out simply to get his fifteen minutes of fame, his momma whining about how he was on his way to get his college application, and how the “po-oolice” just harassed him.
And it would work.
This repeated mantra encouraged a lot of bad acts by black people who normally would not act out and it changes how the police react to the people they encounter. We know it, they know it. It makes everyone on both sides unsure how to interact with the other side. The playbook, if you will, has been thrown out. This breakdown in street communication is causing violence where violence never occurred before.
B-The police are rightly nervous. Plus their training has become too aggressive in my humble opinion. We are trained that everyone can be a threat and that standing your ground in the face of that threat keeps you alive. It’s something that about the time we figure maybe we got it wrong and start to ease up, some idiot jihadi slices the neck of a LT in a Detroit airport or a weed smoking thug tries to beat a cop to death in his own vehicle in Ferguson.
Lawyers, by and large, cannot assign common sense to the law. The law does not recognize common sense, it only recognizes the law. So when you see a lawyer act without common sense, you assume he’s stupid or just being willfully stubborn. Neither are wrong, but it is because that is how he sees the world, through the law.
This shooting was a wrongful act occurring because of bad perceptions by both parties. Let’s look at what happened.
In this particular case the police were aware of a robbery that occurred a few days earlier in a store not that far away. They had photos and BOLOs of the suspect. The officer, Yanez, was aware of those photos. He saw Castile drive by and radioed to this zone partner that this guy fit the description of a robbery suspect. (which he strikingly did!)
Yanez did what we call “an investigative stop” which often is a traffic stop or contact with a subject for the reason of determining if the subject is involved in a crime. I have done thousands over the years, more than a few resulting in an arrest.
5. Castile did not know he fit the description of a suspect. He just knew once again the police were pulling him over. He had a traffic history. And he knew he was armed, with a license to carry.
HOWEVER, the gun was not secured in a holster, it was either in his crotch or his front pocket. This was a worry to him. So he wanted to make sure the officer knew. His intent wasn’t to alarm the officer. Often CCW holders are told to notify if they are armed. Some states demand it.
But NOTHING about being a CCW holder means the person will not kill police. That is a silly argument. Do you expect the officer to honor the verbal statement “I have a gun, I won’t pick it up. Okay, I promise I won’t point it at you. Oops, okay I promise not to pull the trigger”…BANG! That is just silly and French relying on it is just sillier.
Yet, it does go to Castile’s frame of mind, his perception.
6. Yanez’s whole approach was laid back. This was intentional. He didn’t want to alarm a potentially armed and dangerous robber that the jig was up. (Which is his way of avoiding the gunfight. That gets you killed.)
And remember the case in NC where the black man in the truck got out with a gun and refused to surrender?? I call these “statement days” where the bad guy decides basically “F**k it” and goes out swinging or blazing away. You cannot see these coming. So if you don’t know who you are talking to, but suspect he may be trouble, you can either play it cool, or go in hard and fast and hope to catch him off guard.
In this case, Yanez was just checking the guy out, low key and friendly.
7. I would love to see Castile’s tox screen. I bet he was on weed. (I checked loaded with THC.)
With a screaming woman, a little dope and the stress, I don’t think Castille realized he was in trouble. HIS perception was he was just going to tell the officer he had a gun and a license and all was good, and now the officer is screaming at him. But WHAT WAS HE SCREAMING??? He had a license for it. (Again, why in the crotch/pocket and not a holster?)
8. Yanez had in the back of his mind he might have stumbled into a violent felon. Then the guy says “I got a gun.” Now Yanez’s higher brain/lower brain functions are kicking in. Higher brain is saying “Holy crap, he is the robber! and a gun!” The lower brain, where training and survival exist, is saying “Holy crap a gun, he can get me!” Even with that, Yanez commands the guy to do one..simple…thing… DON’T TOUCH IT!
At this point we come back to compliance. If the officer is yelling at you not to do something and is reaching for his gun. Do not do whatever he is saying do not do. It is really that simple. Castile complies, he is alive. Yanez backs up and retreats to cover, which could have worked, but also could have got him shot in the back of the head, Castile survives.
Neither happened, Castile died and Yanez is ruined and horrified. But it is not a criminal issue. That was because of the BLM movement and a frightened PC driven prosecutor….which is a lawyer…which are the bane of our society.
French is a back seat driver. Hit the streets for a year wearing a uniform and then critique yourself after every shift. You’ll come out a better man for it.