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  • By Lt. Tim McMillan

Do All Lives Really Matter?

When an event, is recorded into history, it means only one of two things. The event involves something significantly good and it demonstrates the virtues and greatness that exist within humanity. Conversely, it can also be the exact opposite and represent all of the tragic failings of human beings.

In truth, often the historical record of an event, is actually comprised of both equal, and conflicting parts of human nature. Both good and bad. Ultimately, it is the outcome that denotes the overall theme of any specific historical record.

Martin Luther King Jr. would be a good example. His fight was against something inherently unethical and immoral. His legacy, and that which he left for humanity, however, was hope, belief, and faith in the power of righteousness.

July 6, 2016, it can be predicted that one such historical event occurred in the United States of America. At the time, the event was all Yin and no Yang, and no such virtue could be found. As time passed and June 16the, 2017, came along, Yang was still missing, and in its absence, only more Yin or darkness was compiled. On July 6, 2017, the entire historical focal point is centered on one name.

Philando Divall Castile…

On July 6, 2016, at 9:04 pm, the 32-year-old Castile was driving with his girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, and her four-year-old daughter, in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, a suburb of St. Paul. While traveling on Lapenteur Avenue that evening, Castile made what would prove to ultimately be a fatal mistake, which was nothing more than simply driving past Officer Jeronimo Yanez of the St. Anthony Police Department.

As Castile passed Yanez, in his 1997 Oldsmobile, that summer evening, the now former officer radioed to his partner, Officer Joseph Kauser, that he was planning to pull over Castile’s vehicle to check the IDs of the driver and passenger. Officer Yanez stated on the radio, “The two occupants just look like people that were involved in a robbery. The driver looks more like one of our suspects, just because of the wide-set nose. I couldn’t get a good look at the passenger" according to the police dispatch tapes that night.

Now, indeed there had been an armed robbery in Ramsey County, Minnesota. Furthermore, the robbery had occurred, at the Super USA, only 3.5 miles from where Castile would ultimately be pulled over by Officer Yanez, on Larpenteur Ave. However, the robbery had occurred four days prior. Now, in terms, of Yanez’s reasoning for suspecting Castile for potentially being involved in the armed robbery, I have to admit, I’m either oddly impressed or strangely dumbfounded because the reason was related to Castile’s, “wide-set nose” that Yanez said on the radio he observed.

I have to assume, Yanez, pulled right up next to Castile that evening. That is the only way to mitigate how he could have seen his nose to that great of detail, especially considering this entire ordeal occurred during the dusk hours. Personally, the fact that Castile was a Black man, with a slender build, and shoulder length dreadlock hair, the same as the robbery suspect, would have been more pertinent and easily identifiable features. At least, that would seem more reasonable. However, according to the radio traffic recorded by Officer Yanez, it was the symmetry of his nose that caused Castile to be pulled over that day.

Now, whenever a police related shooting occurs, race becomes a hotly discussed topic amongst the pundits and public alike. Let me just go ahead and say this bluntly. The fact that Castile was a Black man is 100%, without a doubt, the reason that he was pulled over July 6th, 2016. I can say that with absolute confidence, because, the robbery suspect in question, was as well a Black man. Ultimately, how much Castile’s race and gender were, a confounding or influencing factor, in him being stopped is uncertain. Scientists, sociologists, and researchers would suggest that Castile’s race was at a minimum an implicit influence. However, how much so, in regards to this specific case is subjective.

What isn’t subjective is that at 9:05 pm Officer Yanez and his partner, Officer Kauser pulled Castile over at Larpenteur Ave. and Fry St. just outside the Minnesota State Fairgrounds. A site that on September 2, 1901, then-Vice President Theodore Roosevelt uttered his famous phrase, “Speak softly and carry a big stick.” Twelve days afterward, Roosevelt became President of the United States, after William McKinley was assassinated- this was one of those types of events, I mentioned at the start of this article.

What also isn’t subjective is that 40 seconds after being pulled over, Philando Castile would be shot seven times by Officer Yanez.

The, just like that, on a 74-degree summer night, just outside of the Minnesota State Fairgrounds, Philando Castile was dead.

Now, before I go any further, I have to discuss something. It may seem, superfluous to some people for me to bring this up, however, I feel like failing to mention it, would represent a failure within myself to live up to be the person I strive to be. In essence, a failure to balance my own Yin and Yang.

In the immediate aftermath of Castile’s death, the fringe media websites, who are mostly consumed through social media, including the site, “Blue Lives Matter,” a site that presently is followed by 1.6 million people on Facebook, engaged in outright baseless conjecture, illogical and groundless assertions, and outright lies about Castile. The entire basis of their rhetoric was to paint out Castile to be a “thug” and to slander him as if to someway suggest he deserved to die.

Literally, three days after Castile’s death, before his mother, who once held him as an infant and imagined nothing be great things for his future, had even buried her son, Blue Lives Matter published an article with the headline, “Philando Castile Was an Armed Robbery Suspect.” They even published a grainy photo supposedly showing a gun in Castile’s dead lifeless hand. Which we now know is incredible, considering the gun was still in his pocket when it was recovered, and even Yanez, himself told investigators he never saw a gun.

In their smear campaign against a dead man and a family who was suffering from their devastating and untimely loss, they were unable to defend his reputation, Blue Lives Matter published an article that was a masterful piece of psychological warfare. Seriously, any branch of the covert intelligence services would have been proud of it. The entire narrative was written as to instigate a state of ego-dystonic perception from a reader. I’m not kidding here; this isn’t an exaggeration. The article was actually crafted, by happenstance or on purpose, to cause a person to reject or outright fail to perceive any information that is contradictory to their existing predisposition.

I say that, because the piece contained, carefully placed walk backs like, “It is unknown at this time if Castile is the person who committed the armed robbery.” This, of course, is wedged in amongst a whole bunch of statements that invoke vivid imagery of Castile being an armed robber. It even gives a reader their favorite delectable morsel of misinformation, by bashing the mainstream media for not, “accurately reporting the incident.” In truth, there are multiple lies, and baseless assumptions such as suggesting, Officer Kauser will support Yanez’s account of the event, because, well duh… He was there. Kauser didn’t by the way. Both to investigators or on the stand during the trial. However, for the people who simply want to confirm their already formed toxic opinions – the theme was let them eat cake, and they provide an all you can eat buffet of soft, sweet delectable treats.

One of the most infuriating things in the smear media that followed Castile’s death was the repeated assertation that the “liberal media” or “mainstream media” was trying to use Castile’s death as race baiting.

Hmmmmm… nope, no, no, that’s gobblygook.

In fact, the first reports less than 24-hours after Castile’s death only discussed Castile’s memory as that of a beloved nutrition services supervisor at J.J. Hill Montessori Magnet School in St. Paul. A former co-worker, Joan Edman, told a reporter with TIME about how Castile remembered all the children’s names and their food allergies at the school. Edman actually said to TIME, who literally published it for all of God and country to read, “This was a real guy. He made a real contribution. Yes, black lives matter. But this man mattered.”

I don’t know of any other depiction that could be more direct and poignant in demonstrating Philando Castile, may have been a Black man, but he was also a human being, who added value to the community and people who knew him. These statements were made by a former co-worker and again, they were published by TIME, a mainstream news media outlet.

When it comes to those social media troll page and fringe news outlets, I will simply say, shame on you.

Shame on you, for outright intentionally defaming a dead man, and doing so through deception or outright lies. Shame on you.

That is completely contradictory to the very principled foundation that law enforcement is supposed to represent and in no way shape or form, should you ever be considered to actually exemplify the embodiment of the police profession. Shame on yo. Truthfully, do you have no decency?

Now, the following 11 months after Castile was shot and killed, we would see Office Yanez charged with second-degree manslaughter and reckless discharge of a firearm. His trial would begin on May 30, 2017. Then on June 16, 2017, after 25 hours of deliberation, the jury came back with a verdict of “Not Guilty” on all charges.

In response, much of the civil rights and social justice community, who had been largely silent since the protest and riots over the Keith Lamont Scott shooting in Charlotte, collectively gasp. In terms of what had been in public view up this point, there was a significant amount of evidence to suggests that Yanez had indeed unlawfully taken Castile’s life.

In fact, one tremendously telling thing was that almost as the "y" in “Not Guilty” was coming out the jury foreman’s mouth, the St. Anthony Police Department fired Yanez saying, “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.” One cannot help but note the language crafted in the statement given by officials. The statement said, “the public will be best served…” It did not make any sort of mention that his separation was done in Yanez’s best interest. This is a stark contrast to the seemingly forced resignation of Officer Darren Wilson, who shot and killed Michael Brown. The reasoning for his departure was based on, “very credible threats” against him.

The not guilty verdict in the Castile case presented a perplexing problem for some of the most ardent supporters of law enforcement, the gun rights collective. Castile, was indeed a lawful gun owner, with a valid permit, who by Yanez’s own statements had notified the Officer that he was armed at the time of his stop. Essentially, he did everything a lawful and responsible gun owner was supposed to do. The only question in the mind of the gun rights activist was whether or not Castile had in fact reached for his firearm. Assuredly, many of them were able to push these concerns for their own safety and the interaction with the police aside by assuming that Castile clearly must have gone for his gun.

In my opinion, I don’t care what they say, the pro-gun enthusiast in America, have to have some unspoken concerns, provided the listened to the testimony of Castile’s girlfriend, who indicated he never grabbed his gun, or the paramedic Eric Torgerson, who testified he witness a police officer, “put his hand quite a ways down” [Castile’s shorts pocket to remove a gun].

Now, on June 20th, 2017, if anyone still had any questions about Castile’s death, they may find some difficulty still concluding that Castile did anything other than happen to look like a suspect from a robbery that had occurred 4 days prior, and lawfully possessed a handgun. Because on June 20th, the police released the police car dash cam footage of the shooting.

With the release of the dash cam video, this is when I expect my fellow law enforcement officers to step up to the plate and at least give people who have questions about Castile’s death some sense of relief, even if it is minute. Because, I expect you all to be able to watch the video, and you have to see some of the exact same things that I do, that cause you to realize that Philando Castile should not have lost his life that night.

For starters, for an officer who believes he is pulling over an armed robbery suspect, would you say that it is a good idea, or bad idea, to approach the car, square off at the driver’s door and basically stick your entire upper body inside the driver’s window? Is that proper tactics and procedures? Would you consider the mannerisms or behaviors of the backup officer to be consistent with acceptable tactics and procedures for officers who were stopping a potential armed robbery suspect? What about the fact that the backup officer never withdrew his firearm, even after shots were fired? Would you consider that to be odd? Does the fact that the backup officer, told investigators after the shooting, and testified on the stand, that the conversation between Yanez and Castile appeared to be, “calm and relaxed” and that he was, “surprised when Yanez started shooting.

Now, this might be a question for the more veteran police officers, but if you’ve been in police work for any decent amount of time, you are aware of that inexpressible yet undeniable feeling that you get when you perceive a pattern in your environment that is out of place. Most of us refer to it as, “Spidey Sense.” Did Officer Kauser, or Yanez, for that matter, exhibit anything that would make you think either of their, “Spidey Senses” were going off prior to the shooting?

Now, you can hear Castile on the audio. You hear him calmly and politely say he has a firearm on him. You can hear him try to tell Yanez, “I’m I, I was reaching for…” in response to Yanez’s command, “Don’t reach for it then.” You can hear Castile say, “I’m not pulling it out.” Yanez says, “Don’t pull it out!” Then less than a second later, he draws and fires seven times through the open driver’s window, hitting Castile five times.

Philando Castile’s final words, were “I wasn’t going for it.”

Continuing to the 8:10 mark, of the dash cam video, the audio captures a conversation between Yanez and another police officer. During the conversation, Yanez says, “And I don’t know where the gun was, he didn’t tell me where the fucking gun was, and then it was just getting hinky, he gave, he was just staring ahead, and then I was getting fucking nervous, and then I told him, I know I fucking told him to get his fucking hand off his gun.”

In a subsequent interview with Agents with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, Yanez said, “he put his hand around something. And his hand made like a C-type shape and it appeared to me that he was wrapping something around his fingers and almost like if I were to put my hand around my gun. It was dark inside the vehicle. I was trying to fumble my way through under stress to look and see what it was to make sure what I was seeing.”

Ultimately, this is the cold harsh reality that envelopes the death of Philando Castile.

There isn’t any yang. It’s all yin. Yanez, never saw Castile with a firearm, because he didn’t have the gun within proximity to be within immediate control. At least no more than any other lawful firearm owner, who legally carries a gun on them.

If one is to objectively examine the facts surrounding the shooting death of Philando Castile; there is an undeniable and overwhelming, amount of evidence that demonstrates, Officer Yanez is culpable by negligence in creating an unreasonable risk, in his conscious performance of an action that would likely result in death. Or plainly speaking… Philando Castile unlawfully lost his life by the actions of Officer Yanez. Now, the above description I used to define the actions by Officer Yanez, was taken directly from the wording of the Minnesota statute for Manslaughter in the second degree. The verbiage was only slightly altered in order to express active and possessive tense.

Essentially, it cannot be argued that the prosecutor in the case against Yanez overcharged him, thereby making a guilty verdict impossible for the jury. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Granted, I don’t work nor have I ever been to Minnesota, but based on the code section, I would say that the prosecutor very generously charged Yanez, most likely to ensure a guilty verdict. However, as we all know, that was not the verdict which was reached by jurors.

So this brings us to June 21, 2016. Currently, there is still a significant majority of people across the country who find themselves feeling no better off today than they did after 9:06 pm July 6th, 2016. Honestly, I happen to one of them. Now, I could spend my time elaborating on why the jury wasn’t able to come to a guilty decision. Ultimately, it involves a degree of legal complexity that jurors are faced with when it comes to determining the guilt of police officers and the taking of a life. The reasons can be traced back a 1989 U.S. Supreme Court case, Graham v. Connor, which resulted in the objective reasonableness standard. In truth, debating the legality of criminal culpability is fruitless right now. When it comes to Castile’s death, the state of Minnesota cannot legally retry Yanez, and the likelihood that the U.S. Department of Justice would federally charge him, as they did in the case of Walter Scott’s death, is highly unlikely.

So does this mean, that no yang… no light… nothing beneficial, will ever come from the unnecessary and tragic death of Philando Castile? Is that the record that history desires for a 32-year-old man, described by co-works as, “Mr. Rogers with dreadlocks?”

Maybe not… No, I take that back, definitely not. I can see some light at the end of the tunnel in Castile’s death. I can see some, yang. We can never bring back Castile, however, and I’m not just saying this, I truly believe, we can turn the tables to ensure that eventually, Philando Castile’s death is one of those yin vs yang events, where ultimately the good/yang is what Castile’s name will forever be recorded in history as…

It will not be easy per se, simply because it is going to take a willingness, by all parties to who are stakeholders in society. However, it is by no means impossible or unreasonable for everyone.

Sure, think I’m crazy now. However, the only people who change the world, are the ones who are crazy enough to believe they can.

Now, I promise I’m not trying to leave you with a cliffhanger. Rather, some things are important enough, that they should be consumed in doses that afford one the ability to digest it.

So, if you’re equally as crazy as me, check in tomorrow and I’ll elaborate on exactly what I mean in Part II.

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