If you read these pages, I assume you’re familiar with the fatal shooting of concealed permit holder Philando Castile by Saint Anthony, Minnesota Officer Jeronimo Yanez, and the officer’s subsequent acquittal on manslaughter charges. Being a certified Old Fat White Guy, some might wonder why I have a dog in this fight. The answer is simple; I live and carry (openly and concealed) less than 10 miles from where the shooting occurred.
I regularly drive through Saint Anthony on my way to and from work, shopping, doctor appointments, etc., and I have had my own “moment of interest” about 10 years ago with the St. Anthony PD. My experience had the officers being quite polite and professional, their chief, however was more of a PITA.
But enough about me. I’m here to talk about the monumentally fucked fouled-up situation that occurred on the corner of Larpenteur Avenue and Fry Street, and the mistakes made on both sides that led to the unnecessary death of one man and the ruination of another man’s life.
A Facebook friend of mine commented on the Officer Yanez’s acquittal, saying simply, “There are no words.” I disagree. There are words, very important ones. Words which every Minnesota permit to carry class I have taken and every forum discussion about getting pulled over by the cops while carrying I have seen all agree should NEVER pass your lips. Those fateful words, uttered by Philando Castile: “Sir, I have to tell you that I do have a firearm on me.”
It doesn’t matter how respectful Mr. Castiel was being, or how calmly he said those words. I guaran-damn-tee you, what the cop heard was “I’ve got a gun.”
But there were other words in this encounter, too. Very important words, words which were the flat-out lie spoken by Officer Yanez’s when he approached Mr. Castile. Officer Yanez said, “The reason I pulled you over – your brake lights are out.”
The truth of the matter, as Officer Yanez told dispatch just before pulling Castile over, was “The two occupants just look like people that were involved in a robbery. The driver looks more like one of our suspects.” So on the one side, you have a law-abiding gun owner who believes he’s just been pulled over for a fix-it ticket. On the other side, you have a police officer who believes the man he’s pulling over is possibly an armed robber. This is quite simply a recipe for disaster.
Would Mr. Castile have behaved differently if he thought that the officer suspected him of being a wanted criminal? We will never know, but his complete lack of concern for Officer Yanez’s safety probably cost him his life. I know, someone in the back is saying “Whaddaya mean Officer Yanez’s safety? It was Castile who ended up bleeding out live on Facebook!” However, according to the FBI’s LEOKA circumstances page, from 2006 – 2015 there were 491 officers “feloniously killed” and of those, 54 officers (almost 11%), were killed during routine traffic stops.
So yes, whenever you are pulled over by a cop you should keep the officer’s safety in mind. That being said, what could Philando Castile have done differently?
Since I am a bit of a lead-foot, I’ve been pulled over while armed at least a half-dozen times. Each time I have done basically the same thing; if it’s at night, I turn on the dome light, I roll down the window, I turn off the ignition and put the keys on the dash. I raise my hands above my shoulders (sometimes I even stick them out the window), fingers spread wide, so the officer can clearly see that I don’t have a weapon in my hands. My best friend growing up was a cop in New York City for over 25 years, and he said that on traffic stops, cops just love, love, love to see your hands.
When the officer arrives and asks to see my license, I will tell him “officer, just so you know, I do have a Minnesota permit to carry, and I am/am not carrying at this time.” Notice that I never utter the words gun or firearm; I do this to avoid triggering the adrenaline dump that most cops experience when they hear that.
Then, if I’m carrying, I tell him where my gun is located (usually in a shoulder holster in my left armpit) and where my wallet is located. When reaching for my wallet I move slowly, keeping one hand on the steering wheel, and I remove my wallet equally slowly.
I rest my wrists on the steering wheel to remove my license so that the officer doesn’t have to worry about what might be between my legs or under my seat. Whenever I reach for something in the car, I tell him where it’s located and only use one hand, always leaving the other gripping the wheel, and always moving slowly.
Is this overkill? Probably, but this isn’t an ideal world where everyone respects others’ rights and no one initiates force, so I’m willing to go out of my way to smooth things along.
Enough about Mr. Castile’s mistakes. What about Officer Yanez’s mistakes?
The truly glaring error that comes to my mind is that he never actually made up his mind about whether this was a routine fix-it ticket traffic stop or a full-blown felony stop. If the latter, he should have treated it like a full-blown felony stop. Yes, he probably would have taken heat for disrespecting a man in front of his girlfriend and child. BLM would have complained that if Mr. Castile were white he wouldn’t have been treated that way, etc.
But people made mistakes. Officer Yanez didn’t tell Mr. Castile that he was an armed robbery suspect and didn’t do a felony stop. Mr. Castile, not realizing the danger he could be in, was careless (or perhaps merely ignorant). The net result, though, is that Philando Castile is dead and Officer Jeronimo Yanez must deal with having killed a law-abiding citizen.
 Law Enforcement Officers Killed & Assaulted
 Defined by the FBI as “duly sworn city, university and college, county, state, tribal, and federal law enforcement officers who died as a result of felonious incidents in the line of duty.”