In July of 2016, 32-year-old African-American Minnesota resident Philando Castile was driving his fiancée Diamond Reynolds and four-year-old daughter when he was stopped on the road by a St. Anthony officer, Jeronimo Yanez over a broken taillight.
Castile out of good fate informed the officer he had a license to carry a firearm, which he had on him. Yanez then asked to see his identification but when he attempted to retrieve it, Yanez fired seven bullets into the vehicle killing Castile. Yanez’s defense was that when Castile reached for his ID, he feared for his life believing he was reaching for his gun. Global citizens got to see a slumped Castile bleeding profusely from his gunshot wounds as his partner, Reynolds had the presence of mind to live stream the atrocity which had just happened.
The Black American community was hopeful that the Minnesota police officer would be charged for murder. There was talk Yanez faced a second-degree manslaughter charge which carried up to a 10-year prison term and a fine of $20,000.
However, when the trial ended on June 16, 2017, Yanez was found not guilty of second-degree manslaughter by the majority white jury in addition to being acquitted of two counts of intentional discharge of firearm that endangers safety.
Despite the wanton murder of Castile and Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana at the hands of racist police officers, which led to nationwide protests, the officers got to walk free.
With about 1,000 police shootings recorded each year in the United States, the history shows that a great deal of officers who are involved in such deaths such as Castile’s have the charges dropped or are acquitted with settlements reached with the affected families.
For officers to act professionally in discharging their duties, some have called for such settlement fees to be deducted from their pensions, as well as, face charges without getting shielded.
Meanwhile, Philando Castile’s uncle Clarence Castile speaking to the BBC in the wake of George Floyd’s murder also in Minnesota noted he felt the life drained out of Floyd’s body physically and emotionally. He stated the American police’s continuous use of excessive force was unacceptable, adding looting was equally not the way to go.
Since Minnesota police officer Derek M. Chauvin used the dangerous police tactic of kneeling on Floyd’s neck and killing him in the process, there has been a demand for him to be charged with murder. There has been six nights of protests across American states, demanding accountability that this should not be business as usual.
Nearly 40 states are under curfew to contain protest marches which in some locations have turned violent. As anger and frustration spills onto American streets in this coronavirus season and with a recorded 40 million job losses, it does appear what will assuage the wrath of the people is for Chauvin to face a murder charge having gone through due process and for the three other offices who were on guard during the attack on Floyd also penalized beyond getting fired at their police station.
For as is known too well, the American judicial system and police union influence which freed Jeronimo Yanez could as well free Chauvin, despite video evidence. Time will tell.