An hour ago the verdict was rendered in the Yanez manslaughter case in Saint Paul. The officer was found not guilty on all counts by a jury of 12 citizens selected by the defense and prosecution. They deliberated for five days. The verdict is in accordance, from what I know, with the appropriate laws.
This means that while a life, Philando Castille’s, was lost, another has been adjudged not guilty of malice in the incident. Castille was black, Yanez brown. And, blue. You see, the shooting happened when, as Yanez described it, Castille reached for a gun during a traffic stop. Castille’s girlfriend said he was only reaching for his wallet, as instructed by the officer.
Was it a good shooting? None are. But was it justified? The jury did find it so. You see, Castille had told the officer that he had a gun just before reaching for the wallet.
Now, before you go one step farther down that road you were itching to take, do this:
It’s a one time opportunity for you, as the officer, to get it right. If the guy in the driver’s seat starts digging for a gun, and gets it out while you’re weighing all the options, he’s going to be able to shoot you. If you have told him not to get the gun out, and he starts digging, you will likely be shot. White, black, brown – you will likely be shot.
How do I know? I’ve been on both sides of that window. When I deal with officers, my hands are in sight at all times. I don’t make sudden moves. I have survived to talk about it. Sad but true, do otherwise and you take a chance.
Does that mean Castille was a bad guy, or that he needed to die? No, but it means that in that time, and in that place, events moved in such a manner as to lead to his death.
Going forward we can do better, both as citizens and as police. I know the police are getting a lot of training as a result of cases like this one, but citizens should realize that they have a part of the bargain to uphold as well. Watch a few nights of LIVE PD on A&E and you might hold a different point of view. But you have to have an open mind about it to gain from it all.
What makes me sad is that people I know, and consider friends, in the black community, lashed out and spoke about “pigs” and the need to get even. Even for what? A bad night on Larpentur Avenue? The fact that Yanez is brown, not black? The fact that there are problems in some places between cops and citizens? Or the … what? What exactly will the violence, and anger, and hatred based on race and a uniform accomplish. Do they hate the black cop that sits in their pew at church? Or the thought of cops in general.
I read more than a few statements that the city should burn. Why? What will that do besides hurt more people?
I am not asking for subservience to the police. I am not asking for anyone to give up their rights. I am asking for everyone to take a breath, think about how this could be avoided in the future, and remember that it’s dangerous not to follow instructions when dealing with a man/woman with a gun.
It’s that simple: do it right, you’ll come out the other side. Pride has no place in that situation. I am one seriously compliant, humble guy at that moment.
I also frown on burning down the city I live and work in. I’m praying for peace. I’m hoping that people remember that those juries find an awful lot of people not guilty every day, and sometimes it’s the guy you’re rooting for, sometimes not. But it’s the way our law works. And it’s the most fair system I know of.
So, be cool, Saint Paul.