The relationship between law enforcement and minority communities in America has been tense for a very long time. But what happened with Philando Castile can go down in history books as a story of reaching new levels of injustice in this country.
Castile, a 32-year old African-American man, was stopped by a Minnesota police officer for a broken taillight last year in July. Just as Castile was reaching for his wallet, the officer opened fire, claiming he thought Castile was reaching for his gun. Although, Castile had already told the officer he had a conceal carry permit for a firearm before reaching for his wallet, he was still shot seven times in front of his fiancée and her four-year-old daughter, who were in the car with him.
His girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, live streamed the horror on Facebook.
However, despite the evidence, St. Anthony Police Officer Jeronimo Yanez was found not guilty on all charges.
In an audio recording from minutes before the encounter, Yanez can be heard saying: “I’m going to stop a car. I’m going to check IDs. I have reason to pull it over. The two occupants just look like people that were involved in a robbery.”
“The driver looks more like one of our suspects, just ’cause of the wide-set nose,” Yanez continued.
Later on the officer confirmed he believed Castile matched the description of a suspect, just because he was black with a “wide-set nose,” as Yanez put it.
Castile, a dedicated employee of St. Paul Public Schools, where he had been employed as a kitchen worker for the last fourteen years, lost his life because of racial profiling.
The Minnesota officer basically killed Castile for being black, because the victim 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.
Yanez was charged in November, but now, a year later he was acquitted. He will now lead a life of a free man. Yanez was also found not guilty of two counts of dangerous discharge of a firearm by a jury made up of 10 white and two black people.
This just goes to show how easy it is for anyone in the country to racially profile a person, or even kill them based on the color of their skin, and then get away with it – even where there is load of evidence to prove who’s wrong.
“My boyfriend, Philando Castile, was pulled over because, per officer Yanez, he had a wide nose and looked like a suspect,” said Reynolds. “It is a sad state of affairs when this type of criminal conduct is condoned simply because Yanez is a policeman. God help America.”
Statement from Castile's girlfriend Diamond Reynolds: "I am incredibly disappointed with the jury's verdict." pic.twitter.com/gL7vt5g3Nc— Ben Rodgers (@BenRodgers1) June 16, 2017
Castile’s grieving mother, Valerie, also lambasted the police for setting his son’s murderer free.
Philando Castile's mother after verdict: "My son loved this city. And this city killed my son."pic.twitter.com/tkDRl4lcII— Crystal Johnson (@Crystal1Johnson) June 16, 2017
“The system in this country continues to fail black people and will continue to fail us,” she said outside the courtroom. “My son loved this city, and this city killed my son. And a murderer gets away. Are you kidding me right now?”
The city of St. Anthony reported on Friday that Yanez has been fired.
“The City of St. Anthony has concluded that the public will be best served if Officer Yanez is no longer a police officer in our city,” a statement on its website read. “The city intends to offer Officer Yanez a voluntary separation agreement to help him transition to another career other than being a St. Anthony officer.”
But this won’t bring back Castile, who was one of 963 people fatally shot by police officers last year, according to the Washington Post.
The reaction on social media said it all.
Rest In Power, #PhilandoCastile. No justice, no peace.— deray mckesson (@deray) June 16, 2017
I get that pushing a vulnerable person to commit suicide is manslaughter. I'm just confused abt why shooting someone isn't. #PhilandoCastile— Joy Givens (@joyeilene) June 17, 2017
They literally got the murder on tape and they set the guy free. #PhilandoCastile, the justice system failed you.— Luisa Haynes (@wokeluisa) June 17, 2017
Again I have 2 stop and be present with the sadness. Cause we should never feel numb and it should never be normal. #PhilandoCastile— Diarra Kilpatrick (@DiarraOni) June 17, 2017
There are clearly no circumstances under which black lives matter in the justice system. Each acquittal makes this clear. #PhilandoCastile— roxane gay (@rgay) June 16, 2017
Protests erupted in Saint Paul after Yanez was set free.
Demonstrators had gathered the capitol before the verdict was announced publicly. According to local reporters, protesters called for Yanez’s prosecution as they chanted “No justice, no peace, prosecute the police,” “Hands up, don’t shoot,” and later, “Yanez, guilty!”
Banner/thumbnail credit: Reuters