It should have come as no surprise. My heart should not have dropped into my shoes. I should not have had any tears left to cry. But it did, it did, and I did.
Jeronimo Yanez was just acquitted by a jury in the murder … yes it was murder … of Philandro Castile in a suburb of Minneapolis, Minnesota. Need I state that Jeronimo Yanez is white, Philandro Castile was black?
Sequence of events:
06 July 2016 – 32-year-old Philandro Castile, cafeteria manager at the local Montessori school, was driving with his girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds a few minutes after 9:00 p.m., when police officer Jeronimo Yanez, age 29, pulled him over in a ‘routine’ traffic stop allegedly because of a burned-out brake light. Yanez approached the car window and asked Castile for his license and proof of insurance. As Mr. Castile reached for his wallet, presumably to get his driver’s license, Yanez pulled his gun and shot Mr. Castile through the window … not once, not twice, but seven times. While Ms. Reynolds sat in the passenger seat of the car and her 4-year-old daughter, Dae’Anna, was in the backseat! Yanez claimed that he thought Mr. Castile matched the description of a suspect in a recent robbery. He also said that he thought Castile was going for his gun, which was disputed by Ms. Reynolds. The County Medical Examiner’s office ruled Castile’s death a homicide and said he had sustained multiple gunshot wounds.
Ms. Reynolds began video on her phone just as the shooting ended, and livestreamed to Facebook … video that went viral within a short time and that was also presented as evidence at trial.
16 November 2016 – Prosecutors charged Yanez with second-degree manslaughter for the fatal shooting, saying that “no reasonable officer” would have used deadly force in the same situation. Yanez was also charged with two felony counts for intentionally discharging the gun.
30 May 2017 – The trial of Jeronimo Yanez begins with jury selection.
12 June 2017 – Closing arguments complete, the jury of 10 white and 2 black people begins deliberations
16 June 2017 – The jury returns a ‘not guilty’ verdict
During the trial, Yanez testified that he had been parked in his squad car when he saw Castile drive by, and they ‘made eye contact’. “He gave me a deer-in-the-headlights look. It’s a trigger.” (Of course he did … just the day before, another black man, Alton Sterling, had been brutally murdered by white police officers! Black males in this country know what they can expect at the hands of white police officers!)
Yanez said that gave him “strong suspicions” about Castile, whom he believed could be one of the robbery suspects from a robbery that had taken place four days prior. Yanez said Castile had a nonworking brake light, which gave him legal grounds to conduct a “pretext” traffic stop that’s then used to investigate other crimes.
Yanez claimed at trial that he saw Castile begin pulling a gun out of his pocket, although immediately after the shooting, he told his supervisor that he had not seen a gun and did not know where it was. Ms. Reynolds testified that Castile was reaching into his pocket for his driver’s license.
Yanez also claimed that he smelled marijuana in the car. Marijuana was, in fact, later found in the car, however … Yanez’ lawyer, Earl Gray, claimed that Mr. Castile had been under the influence of marijuana and delayed in his reactions at the time of the shooting. “We’re not saying that Philando Castile was going to shoot Officer Yanez,” Mr. Gray said. “What we’re saying is that he did not follow orders. He was stoned.” But video from Yanez dash-cam proves otherwise, showing that Mr. Castile was driving normally, pulled over quickly and was alert and courteous when talking to Officer Yanez.
Earlier in the week, the jury was divided 10-2 … I can guess which jurors argued for a conviction and which for an acquittal. But somehow by Friday they decided to absolve Yanez of all charges. I will not speculate on those deliberations, but instead leave it to your own imaginings.
Officials in the St. Anthony, Minnesota, police department said, they have decided “the public will be best served if Officer Yanez is no longer a police officer in our city.”
The murders of Alton Sterling and Philandro Castile resulted in the nations of the Bahamas, United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain issuing travel advisories for citizens who might be considering travel to the U.S.
The murders of both Alton Sterling and Philandro Castile are a wart on the nose of the United States. The absolution of their murderers proves that justice in this nation is prejudiced, that justice here is anything but just if you are an African-American. Just like the cases of Freddie Gray, Keith Lamont Scott, Michael Brown, Paul O’Neal, Christian Taylor, Tamir Rice, and so many more, once again, justice was not served. As long as we are content to have a proven racist in the position of Attorney General, it never will be. As long as we turn our backs and wear our blinders, it never will be. Until we ALL stand up and speak out against racism, against white supremacy, against mistreatment of our fellow human beings, it never will be. Today was another sad day for the United States of America … one of many such days.