Yesterday, dash cam video of the shooting of Castile by Officer Jeronimo Yanez was released.
The film showed Castile telling Yanez that he had a licensed firearm in the car. And it showed Yanez repeatedly firing into the car for reasons that are not clear on the tape.
Muddying the incident even further is a transcript of an interview the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension conducted with Yanez following the shooting.
Jurors weren’t allowed to review this transcript during Yanez’s trial, but it was referenced several times.
During the interview, Yanez revealed his reasons for pulling his firearm.
He said he pulled Castile over because, he “appeared to match the physical description of … one of our suspects from the strongarm robbery, gunpoint.”
What led Yanez to believe Castile was the robber that the police were looking for?
“I remember that it was, the male had dreadlocks around shoulder length,” Yanez said, adding, “And then just kind of distinct facial features with like a kind of like a wide-set nose.”
Basically, Yanez thought Castile was the robber because he was black and had dreadlocks.
As is usual for traffic stops, Yanez said he went to ask for proof of insurance and a license. But, he says he became alarmed when “as soon as I get up to the car, I’m hit with a odor of burning marijuana.”
According to Yanez, Castile gave him his insurance, and that after, “I know I asked for his ID or his driver’s license. And then he goes, ‘I have a gun.’ And as I’m telling him or as he’s telling me that he’s reaching down between his right leg, his right thigh area and the center console.”
Could Castile have been reaching for an ID?
We’ll never know.
Yanez assumed that Castile was reaching for the gun. “I didn’t know if he was keeping it on him for protection, for, from a, a drug dealer or anything like that or any other people trying to rip him.”
Meaning that, just a few minutes into the stop, Yanez had already played judge and jury, deciding that even if Castile wasn’t the robber the police were looking for, that he was at the very least a drug dealer. Because a black man with dreads — what else could he be?
“I was scared,” Yanez said, “I had no other option that, to take out my firearm and I shot.”
“I thought I was gonna die, and I thought if he’s, if he has the guts and the audacity to smoke marijuana in front of the five-year-old girl and risk her lungs and risk her life by giving her secondhand smoke … then what does he care about me?”
Judging by what we know of Castile’s service to his community, he probably would have cared about Yanez a lot.
And if smoking in front of children makes one a cold-blooded killer, well, then we here at Blavity have seen hundreds of killers roaming free on the streets.
Stereotypes color first impressions. And although police reform seems a long way off, one can only hope that — if nothing else — the death of Philando Castile will make officers elsewhere think twice before racial profiling someone.