Racial tensions are once again running high across the country.
The ongoing series of violent incidents, including the tragic police killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile along with the murderous shooting spree in Dallas that killed five officers, have made relations between minority communities and law enforcement agencies a lot worse.
The deaths of Sterling and Castile once again highlighted the racial disparities between whites and blacks in the United States. Though the authorities continue to claim that neither of the shootings were racially motivated, a recently surfaced audio clip proves that might not be the case — at least for one of the victims.
A radio recording, recovered by local news station KARE11 from a viewer, suggests Castile was a casualty of driving while black. St. Anthony, Minnesota, police allegedly stopped the 32-year-old in Falcon Heights, a suburb of St. Paul on July 6 because his “wide-set nose” fit a robbery suspect’s profile.
Although the clip does not cover the shooting itself, it gives a clear indication that the traffic stop that led to the tragedy was based on nothing but racial profiling.
“I’m going to stop a car. I’m going to check IDs. I have reason to pull it over,” an officer can be heard saying in the video. “The two occupants just look like people that were involved in a robbery. The driver looks like one of our suspects, just ‘cause of the wide set nose.”
While law enforcement officials have not verified the legitimacy of the recording, the NBC affiliate claims both the location of the stop and the plate number reported by the officer match up with Castile’s whereabouts and the vehicle he was driving at the time of his death.
Castile’s girlfriend Diamond “Lavish” Reynolds, who was in the car at the time and captured the horrifying aftermath of the shooting, said the police told them to pull over because of a “busted tail light.” She claims the tail light was in working order.
The attorney representing Jeronimo Yanez, the police officer who shot Castile, said that Yanez shot Castile after the victim reached for something. Reynolds told the media that her boyfriend had already informed the officer that he had concealed carry permit and was reaching for his license.
Moreover, Associated Press found that Castile was pulled over 52 times between 2002 and his death. What’s more interesting is the fact that he was never convicted of anything more serious than misdemeanor or a speeding ticket. He was never caught drunk driving or involved in hit-and-run. About half of the 86 violations assessed against him were ultimately dismissed.
“It’s a big deal to get stopped 52 times. You can’t find somebody who’s been stopped 52 times and doesn’t have any felony convictions or drunk driving. That’s highly unusual,” said Fred Friedman, the retired chief public defender for Northeast Minnesota. “Why was his license revoked? Was it just this insurance nonsense? Here’s the heart of it: Why did he keep getting stopped?”
Is Castile a victim of driving while black? Well, it sadly appears so.
A number of studies have showed that African Americans are significantly more likely to be pulled over and searched. A 2011 Bureau of Justice Statistics study found that police stopped a higher percentage of black drivers — even though black men make up about 6 percent of the total population.