21:05:40 Officer: “…license and registration?”
21:05:49 Driver hands document to officer
21:05:54 Driver: “I have to tell you, I do have a firearm…”
21:05:56 Officer: “Don’t reach for it.”
21:05:57 Officer: “Don’t pull it out.”
21:05:59 Officer: Draws weapon “Don’t pull it out!”
21:06:00 Officer: Begins firing into car
Now, without a shot of what was going on in the car, I can’t say for certain what exactly happened. Here is what npr.org says was said during the exchange:
CASTILE: Sir, I have to tell you, I do have a…
CASTILE: …Firearm on me.
YANEZ: OK, don’t reach for it then.
CASTILE: I’m reaching for…
YANEZ: Don’t pull it out.
CASTILE: I’m not pulling it out.
YANEZ: Don’t pull it out.
NELSON: He fired seven times.
It has been said the officer stopped the vehicle as a result of the fact that the driver resembled a suspect in a recent robbery “just ’cause of the wide-set nose”. But the officer said to Castile the reason he stopped him was non-working brake-light. Either way, there was more going on in this exchange than may be documented in text. Here is what I see. The officer is nervous. For all he knows, he is right to be scared. Castile reveals that he has a firearm. The officer says, “OK, don’t reach for it then.”, but is really saying, “Stop reaching for whatever it is you are reaching for. I suspect is your gun.” The transcript on the nor Website would seem to suggest Castile continued to reach for something: “I’m reaching for…” Don’t pull it out.”, the officer says. Although his words say, “Don’t pull out your firearm.”, they are meant to say “Stop what you are doing.” At this point, according to the officer’s testimony, he felt Castile had a firearm in his right hand and was seconds away from pulling the trigger. The officer said one more time, “Don’t pull it out.” and began firing into the car a second later… Effective communication on the officer’s part could have avoided this. Understanding what was meant by the officer on Castile’s part could have avoided this. They both were at fault. The officer’s fault cost him his job. Castile’s fault cost him his life. It doesn’t exactly seem balanced; Does it? It especially seems unbalanced when we consider the fact that the officer was in a position of authority. And really, is the responsibility of a citizen to read between the lines, to attempt to really understand what is meant when an officer gives an order? Still, if I were going to shoot a cop in this situation, I’d probably continue telling him/her I wasn’t reaching for my firearm until I pulled the trigger.
It has been said the color of the driver’s skin played a role in this travesty. That is, that the officer may have felt less threatened if the driver where of European descent – that the officer was quicker on the draw because the driver was of African descent. The officer seemed to express great distress over discharging his firearm. This leads me to believe this was not consciously racially motivated. If, in fact, the officer experienced a greater sense of fear as a result of the color of the driver’s skin and more readily drew his weapon and fired because of this fear, we may look to the racial divide in our country for an explanation. Many young people would seem quick to adhere to this separation, this idea of us and them. This pits us against each other from an early age. I know I’ve experienced attitudes of disrespect from some people with dark skin apparently only because of the difference in our skin color. In my experience, this attitude usually comes from some younger males of African descent. This disrespect is righteous and justified if I represent to them the idea of “white” men. I am the reason they don’t make as much as “white” men. I am the reason they are unproportionately arrested and jailed. I am the reason they are shot by police.
Likewise, if I were a “white” officer, I may feel justified in being quicker on the draw when it comes to a suspect of African descent. I recognize the racial divide in our country and understand he may see me as a threat. As unbiased as I may try to be, I want to go home to see my kids tonight and this job is dangerous. If someone views me as an enemy, it may serve our interest to keep them arm’s length. So arm’s length begets arm’s length, fear begets fear, and violence begets violence.
I would give my life to cause the people of our society to wake up. Fear of each other does nothing but cause tension and get us killed. If I ruled the world, I would keep the people fighting so they couldn’t see who was really causing them trouble. Open your eyes. Fear is the enemy. Love will set us free. Revolution is evolution. Division is just noise pollution. Like a horse shaking off flies, we will take back control when we are ready to give up the fear.