A lot of people have been making wild accusations against Philando Castile, the man killed by police on July 6th, 2016. Some are saying he was a robbery suspect and that his gun was in his lap, while others claim that he didn't have a license to carry a firearm.
I think it's important to jot down what we know and what we don't know, and when we do that, a narrative forms that fits quite well with all the evidence we have thusfar.
What We Know
1.) We know that he was shot 4-5 times and is now dead.
2.) We know that he is licensed to carry a concealed firearm: Star Tribune
3.) We know that Lavish Reynolds recorded a video after he was shot and began documenting what happened:
4.) We know that Philando Castile had no criminal record aside from a long list of traffic violations.
5.) We know that he was a cafeteria supervisor at J.J. Hill Montessori Magnet School in Saint Paul, Minn. and had worked at this job for about 12 years.
6.) We know that Philando Castile was shot by officer Jeronimo Yanez.
7.) We know that a second officer was with Yanez; his name is officer Joseph Kauser.
8.) We know that both officers had been with the St. Anthony Police Department for four years, but details about their time at the department remain largely unknown.
9.) We know that Officer Yanez was Asian, not white (as many had claimed).
10.) We know that Philando was NOT a suspect in a robbery, but according to the police, he fit the description of the robber captured in a picture, which I will show very soon.
11.) We know that Officer Yanez never corrected any statements made by Lavish Reynolds as she narrated the events that had just taken place.
What We Don't Know
1.) We don't know where Castile's firearm was located when he was shot. Many bloggers claim this picture is proof that his legally-carried firearm was resting in his lap:
2.) We don't know that the above image is proof of a weapon on his lap. It looks more like a cell phone to me, but it certainly doesn't have any distinctive qualities of a gun.
3.) There is no proof that Philando was the same person who robbed a convenient store 4 days prior to his death, although Conservative bloggers are pushing the narrative that he is and they are using this picture as evidence.
4.) We don't know how much time transpired from the moment officer Yanez told Philando to put his hands up and when he was shot.
5.) We don't know where Philando's hands actually were at the time he was shot.
My Theory of What Happened
Based on what we have available, I have a fairly logical theory of what happened on that day.
The officer saw an African American male that fit the description of the BOLO received for the robbery:
The other suspect was described as a black man with shoulder-length dreadlocks, who wore tan pants, tan shoes with white soles, a green jacket, a green baseball cap and glasses, the release says. He also had some of his hair pulled into a bun through the strap on the back of his hat and had a small mustache and facial hair on his chin.
At this point, he pulls Philando's vehicle over and tells Philando he's being pulled over for a broken tail light (even though it wasn't broken, the SCOTUS has ruled that an officer can lie about the reason for pulling a vehicle over during the course of an unrelated investigation - source).
The officer then asks Philando for identification, so Philando complies, but while Philando was reaching towards his butt for his wallet, he informs the officer he has a license to carry a firearm and the firearm he's carrying.
The officer then immediately pulls out his service pistol and screams at Philando to put his hands up, but Philando not expecting that reaction is startled by the instant change in the officer's demeanor and doesn't react fast enough, and at that point, the officer fires 4-5 shots into the side of Philando, resulting in his death.
I've come to this scenario, because the officer never corrected Lavish during her video commentary, and during the entire video you never hear the officer say that Philando had pulled a weapon (the police are suggesting the officer saw the weapon and that's why he shot).
In all the videos I've watched where a person is shot by police, they always discuss with other officers that 'he had a gun' or 'he was reaching for something' and these phrases are typically repeated numerous times. Due to the lack of this commentary anywhere in the video, I do not believe the officer ever saw Philando's weapon.
Many people are claiming that because the officer stated that he told Philando to get his hand off of 'it', that he was referring to the weapon, but that also doesn't ring true since the officer was responding to Lavish having just said "you told him to get his ID... he was getting his wallet" (paraphrasing somewhat). In that case, the 'it' could easily refer to the wallet or 'something', which further convinces me that the officer didn't know what Philando was reaching for.
Given this scenario, we run into a couple of questions:
1) Is it really okay for officers to shoot even when they never see a weapon?
2) Should we not punish an officer for making a bad judgment call that resulted in the death of an innocent man?
This is going to be argued about for months to come, so we'll see what evidence comes from the ongoing investigation, but I believe the officer thought Philando was reaching for his firearm because Philando had just told the officer he had one and was legally allowed to carry the firearm, which brings us to another question:
In states where citizens are allowed to carry weapons, or even where they require permits, does the mere existence of a weapon mean the officer is always justified in killing the person carrying the weapon? If true, then what's the point of having a permit or carrying a weapon ever?
I believe the officer felt like he was in danger, but I believe the officer was never in danger - he just thought he was based on the circumstances of the situation. But if you or I had shot someone and it turned out our judgment was bad and we weren't in danger, we would be placed in prison. Because of that double-standard, I firmly believe police reform is necessary because far too many officers fire their weapons due to ill-conceived perceptions that turn out to be false. Even one innocent man being killed by police should be enough for us to take steps in changing the standards police must use to determine when to use deadly force.
After all, our military men and women are held to a higher standard - they cannot fire until fired upon.
What do you think?
A video of mine applying the same logic to debunk the claims made by police and by bloggers is available below: