Today, the verdict was announced after jurrors spent 5 days deliberating, that Officer Jeronimo Yanez was declared not guilty of second -degree manslaughter for the fatal shooting of Philando Castile last year, leaving not just black people across the nation, but people of various races and nationalities feeling hopeless, confused and some even angry. It was another sad day for America and you could feel the nostalgic angst and troubling energy in the air as if the weight of the 1960’s Civil Rights Movement was knocking on the hearts of every human being who was present enough to realize how hypocritical, violent and ignorant the American legal system and law enforcement continuously proves to be.
Last year, I wrote my general sentiments about the police brutality against minorities as well as the Black Lives Movement. And one sentiment that I felt strongly then and that I feel even stronger now, is the mere revelation that everyone involved in these cases are victims – including the officers.
Officer Yanez was a Mexican officer who apparently had been failed by his law-enforcement training. He also very well could be a human being who had been failed by an American society, where the black man is still hyper-criminalized and stereotyped as violent and dangerous by nature.
The fact that Officer Yanez was not convicted of any charges reflects a paradoxical truth about our legal system as it relates to whether or not all people no matter their race receive due process of law. However, this truth had already been unveiled when most people answered no to the question: would Philando Castile have been shot if he was white. Heck, would he have even been pulled over in the first place? Most seem to assume no, especially because Officer Yanez said that he thought that Castile could have been a part of a robbery because “his nose was wide”. Surely, one would think that Officer Yanez would have more evidence to go on to assume that Castile had committed the robbery, which escalated Officer Yanez’s fear of losing his life when Castile reached for his wallet after making Officer Yanez aware that he had a license to bare arms and that he had a firearm on him. Castile, was shot 7 times immediately after that while his girlfriend (Miss Diamond Reynolds) was in the driver seat and their 4 year old daughter was in the back seat. After the shots had been fired, Reynolds streamed on Facebook Castile dying as she recounted what had just happened. The CNN transcript of what happened is below and you can view the horrific recap of the video here.
- 9:05:00 p.m. — Castile’s vehicle came to a complete stop.
- 9:05:15 – 9:05:22 p.m. — Yanez approached Castile’s car on the driver’s side.
- 9:05:22 – 9:05:38 p.m. — Yanez exchanged greetings with Castile and told him of the brake light problem.
- 9:05:33 p.m. — St. Anthony Police Officer Joseph Kauser, who had arrived as backup, approached Castile’s car on the passenger’s side.
- 9:05:38 p.m. — Yanez asked for Castile’s driver’s license and proof of insurance.
- 9:05:48 p.m. — Castile provided Yanez with his proof of insurance card.
- 9:05:49 – 9:05:52 p.m. — Yanez looked at Castile’s insurance information and then tucked the card in his pocket.
- 9:05:52 – 9:05:55 p.m. — Castile told Yanez: “Sir, I have to tell you that I do have a firearm on me.” Before Castile completed the sentence, Yanez interrupted and replied, “Okay” and placed his right hand on the holster of his gun.
- 9:05:55 – 9:06:02 p.m. — Yanez said “Okay, don’t reach for it, then.” Castile responded: “I’m… I’m … [inaudible] reaching…,” before being again interrupted by Yanez, who said “Don’t pull it out.” Castile responded, “I’m not pulling it out,” and Reynolds said, “He’s not pulling it out.”
- Yanez screamed: “Don’t pull it out,” and pulled his gun with his right hand. Yanez fired seven shots in the direction of Castile in rapid succession. The seventh shot was fired at 9:06:02 p.m. Kauser did not touch or remove his gun.
- 9:06:03 – 9:06:04 p.m. — Reynolds yelled, “You just killed my boyfriend!”
- 9:06:04 – 9:06:05 p.m. — Castile moaned and said, “I wasn’t reaching for it.” These were his last words.
- 9:06:05 – 9:06:09 p.m. — Reynolds said “He wasn’t reaching for it.” Before she completed her sentence, Yanez screamed “Don’t pull it out!” Reynolds responded. “He wasn’t.” Yanez yelled, “Don’t move! F***!”
Despite the tragic account above, if Officer Yanez was convicted, I am not sure if I could revel in happiness and an absolute feeling that justice had been served today. Two wrongs don’t make a right in my book and the truth is, the system is “fucked up”. I believe that Officer Yanez was trained by the law enforcement and American society to fear black men with wide noses in inner-city neighborhoods. He was trained to fear for his life and assume that a black man was reaching for his gun even though in actuality he was reaching for the ID that had been requested even though Castile was not even driving. And so I can understand why some want Officer Yanez to pay for the life of Castile being no more even though we all know – it will not bring Castile back and nothing will ever feel that void due to his death.
Mel Reeves, a community activist, told CNN outside the courthouse that Castile was killed by “the system. Yanez worked for the system. He killed somebody. Philando Castile got victimized by the system. So we need to start asking a question about the system — why is the system violent?” Reeves said. Officer Yanez is just the symptom. He is not the root of the disease of violence and racism in this country.
Self-defense is murder in the inner city communities, but it is not considered murder if you are a police officer. This represents an imbalance of power and the paradoxical nature of our violent America, the beautiful.
So, WHAT ARE WE AS HUMAN BEINGS GOING TO DO ABOUT IT? One thing that is for sure, in order to create progress, we cannot act out the heinous, hypocritical and violent actions that have been acted on us. And we most certainly cannot adopt the mental program of terror, hate and ignorance that some of us may have painfully endured. Well, what can we do?
If only Dr. Malcom Luther King Jr. & Malcolm X could speak some words of direction to us now. Where are our leaders; for every human being from every creed and every race – need these thought leaders today. We are tired of the hype. Where is the resolution?
💜Love & Light☀️,
CRISTEN M. MILLS