The Curious Case of Philando Castile, Continued…
By: Amy Singer, PhD. & Kristina Denius, JD.
And so the case continues. In this update we will explore recently revealed clues germane to the case, revisit evidence that continues to bewilder, and assess the ongoing changing tide of public perception in the attribution of blame in the death of Philando Castile. We will also assess the impact of a subsequent racially charged police shooting in South Florida, which was also captured on videotape. What ramifications does the South Florida videotape have if any, on the Castile case? How do the new facts influence how the public views what is captured on the videotapes? Does new evidence alter the way the videotape in the Castile case is perceived? If so, how does it do so and will it be important to the ultimate outcome of the case?
The Plot Thickens:
We begin with the plot thickening. W now know that the day of the roadside encounter between Mr. Castile and the police officer, leading to Mr. Castile’s death was not the first time these two individuals had crossed paths in their lives. On November 23 rd , 2011 there was a traffic incident wherein Mr. Castile was pulled over for a broken tail light and it was discovered that he was driving on an expired license. Jeronimo Yanez, the police officer who would go on to systematically fire three to four shots into Mr. Castile’s body less than five years later, was one of the officers who accompanied Castile to the jail that day. At this point there is no way to know if either recognized the other. Does it matter to you that they their lives had intersected in a previous traffic stop incident, one in which Mr. Castile ended up in jail? Does this fact change your previous conceptions of what you saw on the videotape or had heard about the case?
Furthermore, what does it say to you that Mr. Castile had been pulled over 52 times in fourteen years? Are the police targeting him? Does he have a bull’s eye on him because he is black, or is it more likely that he is the type of person who taunts authority by consistently and repeatedly flaunting his disregard for it? Is he the type of person who pushes the envelope, wheeling around town doing whatever he damn well pleases? Does it matter to you that he smokes marijuana in the car, drives with (presumably) known suspended and revoked licenses, and broken tail lights? What do you make of these circumstances? Do they give you any insight into what sort of person Mr. Castile was?
How do these facts color your opinions about Mr. Castile and the unfolding events that led up to his death? Does it bother you that Mr. Castile was apparently unfazed by incident after incident, being repeatedly pulled over and hauled off to jail, reprimanded and punished for the same trivial (in the scheme of things) offense? Does it matter that he had no serious criminal offenses on his record? What bothers you or doesn’t bother you about Mr. Castile’s actions as an automobile driver leading up to the final moments of his life? Do you think Mr. Castile is in part responsible for his own demise?
A Shift in Public Perception and Attitudes:
What does it say to you that the local Science Museum in Minnesota had to remove signs honoring Philando Castile? Signs that read “Race: Are we so Different?” and “The Staff and Board of the Science Museum of Minnesota join the community in mourning the tragic killing of Philando Castile” were forced to be removed due to overwhelming negative backlash from the community. What do you think about the Science Museum’s initial signs of support for Mr. Castile? What do you think has changed the tide of public opinion from one of initial support of Mr. Castile to a sense that his death may not deserve to be honored? What has changed? Why is public opinion turning against Mr.Castile? The videotape has not changed since it was filmed. So the question arises, what is motivating the change in the public’s assessment of who is to blame for the death of Mr. Castile? What are the motivating factors in court of public opinion regarding this case? The policeman who shot Mr. Castile, Mr. Yanez, states through his attorney that this case has nothing to do with race and everything to do with his being made aware of the presence of the gun. Which raises the puzzling specter, if Mr. Castile had not disclosed that he had a gun in his possession, (as he was required to do) would he still be with us?
Another Shooting, Another Videotape:
Finally this update concludes with an intervening police shooting of an unarmed black health care case worker on a North Miami street which was also captured by a videotape. The videotape clearly shows us a black man lying flat on his back in the middle of the road with hands raised above his head, while a young adult man sits cross-legged a mere few feet in front of the man clutching a child’s fire truck toy. For whatever reason, one of the responding police officer’s fired three shots, and the black man lying on the ground with his hands in the air was hit in the leg by one of the bullets. The evidence later reveals that the man who was shot, Charles Kinsey, is a behavioral health therapist who was trying to assist and protect an autistic patient (the man clutching fire truck toy) who had wandered off from a treatment facility. Reportedly, after he was shot, Mr. Kinsey asked the officer why he had shot him, and the policeman, Jonathan Aledda, responded,”I don’t know.” Further evidence suggests that the policeman was aiming for the autistic man. What does all of this mean? How does this affect people’s attitudes in the Castile case?
What effect does the videotape and evidence in the North Miami case have on the public’s impression of the videotape and evidence in Mr. Castile’s case? Does the Miami case in any way minimize Mr. Yanez’s responsibility for the death of Mr. Castile? Does the Miami case essentially take the wind out of the sails of those who were angered by the police shooting of Castile, in that the Miami shooting seems to be more blatantly egregious than the more ambiguous videotape and facts surrounding Mr. Castile’s case? How do we determine whether the deadly force used by Mr. Yanez was justified? Is it fair to compare the videotapes and evidence between two entirely different cases and sets of circumstances? The intriguing saga continues as the Castile case and other relevant events and evidence converge and unfold before us.
What effect does the continuous onslaught (by the media) of the imagery in these videotapes have on the viewing public? How does it shape our judgments and attitudes about what we are witnessing? How does it affect our decision making processes in determining who, if anyone, is to blame for the death of Mr. Castile?