Of all the senseless violence that has happened lately in the last few years that has revolved around race, the Philando Castile case is a shining example of what black men have to face. Here is a man who was doing nothing wrong, got pulled over by the police, and now is dead, even though he did nothing wrong. By all accounts, he was an upstanding citizen. Yet, this morning, just a few days after his death – do we call it murder? – there are those who are trying to justify that death by denigrating him and trying to paint him, and his girlfriend, as liars, as if that justifies his death. A post from a blog called “The Last Refuge” is going viral in Conservative circles. It starts like this:
“The Falcon Heights, Minnesota police shooting of Philando Castile is based around an entirely false narrative. Castile and Ms. Diamond Reynolds (Facebook video uploader) were pulled over by police because Castile matched a BOLO [Be On Look Out] Alert for an armed robbery suspect from four days prior.
Saint Anthony, MN, Police Officers Jeronimo Yanez and Joseph Kauser pulled over Mr. Castile and Ms. Reynolds because the driver, Philando Castile, matched the suspect profile in an armed robbery which occurred on July 2nd, at a convenience store, only a few blocks from where their car was pulled over.”
I have no problem with inaccurate information getting corrected. But there are some assertions in this write-up that are complete conjecture. For instance:
“Ms. Diamond Reynolds narrates the now viral Facebook video with several false statements.
Reynolds claimed they were pulled over for a broken tail light, false.”
The author, known as “Sundance”, shows no evidence that the officer did not say that he had pulled them over because of that. I ask, would an officer pull you over and say right off the bat “I pulled you over because you match the description of a robbery suspect” before getting a better look at the person?. In fact, it is perfectly legal for a cop to lie IF there is reasonable cause or suspicion.
“Ms. Reynolds also claims her boyfriend, Castile, was holding a concealed carry permit for a firearm that was resting on his left thigh. This also appears to be false.
According to a question presented to the local county sheriff who oversees the Concealed Carry Permit process, Mr. Castile had never requested a concealed carry permit from their office:”
@cameron_dehart Mr. Castile never applied for a permit to carry with our office. Therefore we did not issue his permit.
— Ramsey Sheriff (MN) (@RamseySheriff) July 7, 2016
BUT, the very same agency goes on to say this:
— Ramsey Sheriff (MN) (@RamseySheriff) July 9, 2016
The author states:
“It is possible a CCP was obtained in another county, however the media are conflating “permit to purchase” with “concealed carry permit”. For some reason the CCP ownership is being amplified; it really has no bearing and is largely irrelevant for the context of the situation. That said, there is no factual evidence Mr. Philando Castile had a CCP.”
The County Sherrif is not the only place where one can get a CCP, you can get one from the City Police office. In fact, Mr Castile went to the University of Minnesota, which is in a different county. He may have gotten one there. The author jumps to the conclusion that Mr. Castile did not have a CCP without checking other possibilities…. Why?
UPDATE: He DID have a CCP.
And then Sundance, goes on to show less than idea quality pictures of the robbery suspect from surveillance cameras, and shows an image capture from the video footage that is supposed to show that the gun Castile had on the night he was shot is the same type used in the robbery, even though you can only see a tiny sliver of the gun in the freeze frame. It’s almost as if he’s making a case that Castile DID rob the store.
And THEN, Sundance shows Castile’s fiance, Mrs Diamond, the one that took the video that shook the world, at a gathering to pay respect to the now dead Castile. Sundance posts a picture of Mrs Diamond smoking a cigarette, and holding a pack of Newport cigs….
Well, because the robbers of the convenience store stole a carton of Newport cigarettes… And there she is… On camera! Smoking Newport cigarettes!!!!!. I suspect she’s not the only person who smoke those. I have NO IDEA if she was smoking in the car when they were pulled over, and neither does Sundance. It’s almost as if he’s making a case that Castile DID rob the store.
Lastly, Sundance updates us to let us know that:
“Lastly, it appears the family circle around Philando Castile is moving quickly to raise funds from the event. There are currently at least THREE Go-Fund-Me Donation, accounts set up by entities within the familial circle, currently running to raise money:”
Why on Earth is this even relevant to anything??? I wonder if Sundance would be upset to know that the family of Dylan Noble, a white 17 year old who was shot and killed by police here in Fresno, also has a Go Fund Me site, and has already had several fund-raisers. Why would Sundance include that info???? Unless that’s a statement about the family using their sons death to get $$$.
Though I value the authors desire to uncover more facts about this case, including those that refute some of the information that had been presented, the direction that the post took was vile. There is a point where Sundance could have stopped, and would have effectively demonstrated that the officer had justification to pull over Castile beyond a tail light issue. But the post went much much further. Once again, and I’ve seen it happen over and over and over again, here is someone going out of their way to paint a veneer of guilt, to impune someone who didn’t deserve to die, AND to smear the fiance and family for no reason. Sundance isn’t flat out calling these people thugs and robbers and, in the case of the weird criticism of the go fund me campaign, opportunists, but the implication is quite clear.
My post isn’t just about the piece Sundance wrote. When I read that post, there was one thing that struck me… The eyewitness description of the two people that robbed the store. So I went to the link that described the robbery:
“Employees described one suspect to police as a black man with longer than shoulder-length dreadlocks, who wore blue jeans, a green plaid long-sleeved shirt, dark-color shoes with white highlights, glasses and a baseball cap printed with marijuana leaves, the release says. He may have had a mustache.
The other suspect was described as a black man with shoulder-length dreadlocks, who wore tan pants, tan shoes with white soles, a green jacket, a green baseball cap and glasses, the release says. He also had some of his hair pulled into a bun through the strap on the back of his hat and had a small mustache and facial hair on his chin.”
Seeing that dreads are pretty fashionable these days, that could be a LOT of people, a lot of black men. When the two officers noticed Castile, was it while they were all driving? How well, even in daylight, are going to be able to see this guy? He’s sitting in a car, so you really can’t see his body type. The pictures of the robbery suspects aren’t that great. I could walk around Fresno, maybe go to the mall or hang out at a gas station, and see a few people that could fit that description. (Note – There is some auto out in the wild that is supposed to be audio from the officer to dispatch as he’s pulling Castile over, but I’m not sure of the of it’s authenticity. I’ll add it if it’s verified.)
What I’m getting at is this: is this a perfect example of, how do I say this without being clumsy, the “they all look alike” syndrome? I’m not saying the officer who shot Castile is a racist, either. It seems this problem is built into the system. White people are kind of lucky. We have all sorts of different colors of skin, colors of eyes, colors of hair, etc. People of color don’t have the same inherited advantage of extreme differentiation.
Sidebar… With a point. Here is my tiny bit of personal experience of getting pulled over due to “reasonable suspicion”.
This is back in 1993-ish. Me, a short white guy, and my best friend Steve, a tall blonde guy, are driving around a poorly lit San Diego neighborhood one evening, looking for the house of a friend who we hadn’t seen in a while. He had moved to a new house, and, in the days before GPS and smart phones, we had to actually look for addresses (Millennials, you have no idea of the struggles our generation faced). We couldn’t see it, didn’t even know if we were quite in the right area, but we were driving slowly through the neighborhood, looking for the street. I noticed a cop car following behind me, and thought it odd that its headlights were off. I turned a corner, and then the flashers went off. So I pulled over expecting the usual “can I see your license and registration blah blah blah…”.
Instantly, there is an officer at my door with a gun in my face, two at Steve’s passenger door and at least one leaning on the tailgate, also with gun drawn I assume. I catch a glance at my rear view mirror to see that there are several cop cars all around. The Calvary is here.
My officer orders me to be at 10 and 2. I of course comply.
I’m told to turn off the car.
Then I’m ordered to slowly get out of the car and put my hands on the roof of the car.
Then, after a pat-down, I’m ordered to put my hands behind my back…..
Yay!!!! I’m getting arrested, and I have NO IDEA why!!!!!
I ask the question “why am I getting arrested” as the officer is cuffing me, and his response is “Why are your palms moist????” I guess that is supposed to be proof that I’m nervous cause I’m guilty of… Something. I want to reply that my palm are moist because the roof of the car has condensation on it, and you had me put my hands there…. But, nope. I’m more annoyed than scared over this whole thing. But I know better than to push things. I keep my trap shut.
So, even though I have NO IDEA what is going on, I end up cuffed in the back of a police car. About fifteen minutes go by, and then another officer pops his head in the car and asked “Is there any reason why we shouldn’t search your car?”. Being that there is not reason why he shouldn’t search my car, I give permission. I’m not a pot smoker, or a murderer (as far as you know), so there would be nothing to find. But, immediately, it hits me….What if they plant something in my car???? This is the first time I feel some real concern in this whole ordeal. Ten minutes later, they return to inform me they found nothing incriminating. Well there’s a dull shocker.
So another twenty or so minutes go by, and another cop car pulls up facing my door. I’m let out of the back seat, stand in front of the new arrival, which is now capturing me in its spot light, and in a moment, that’s done. The light goes off, and shortly after, so do the cuffs. I’m given my belongings that were confiscated earlier, and told by my jerkish cop-in-charge to move along and get out of here… Or something like that. After 45 or so minutes in custody, I STILL get no explanation as to what was going down. We’re just told to leave.
Apparently, Steve’s detaining officer was much more forthright with information than mine was, and told him what was going on. There had been a robbery at a nearby 7-11. The perps got away in a gray car. My car is gray. When the cops that were following me ran my license plate, apparently they got the wrong number because my plate and car didn’t match. That sounds fine.
But here’s the weird part. The car that the perps were driving was a gray four door Pontiac sedan. Mine? And the perps? Two Mexicans and and African American….
Huh????? Neither me, nor Steve, could EVER be mistaken as matching that description!!! I mean… I’m WHITE!!!! And Steve is that, turned to eleven!!!!
In retrospect, it’s a fun story to tell. Not quite so fun at the time.
I’ve been pulled over a few times, usually for something I did. This is my one experience where I did absolutely nothing wrong. I looked “suspicious”. Philandro Castile had been pulled over and cited many more times, by some accounts 31 or more. Those were for minor traffic violations: no muffler, speeding. But he also has violations that you don’t get unless you’re already pulled over: no registration, no insurance card. Were any of those stops and citations due to an officer thinking he “looked suspicious”?