Officer Acquitted In Shooting That Drew Worldwide Publicity

Last July, police officer Jeronimo Yanez stopped a vehicle that was being driven by Philando Castile, with Castile’s girlfriend and her daughter as passengers. The officer and Castile had an exchange in which Castile said he had a gun. Yanez later testified that he ordered Castile not to reach for the gun, but Castile disobeyed that order and grabbed for it in the front pocket of his shorts. Yanez, who testified that he was in fear for his life, then shot Castile fatally. The case drew worldwide attention, mostly because Castile’s girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, livestreamed the immediate aftermath of the shooting on Facebook.

It later developed that Castile had a carry permit, but also was high on marijuana (as was Reynolds), which would have made his possession at the time of the incident illegal.

Local authorities charged the officer, Jeronimo Yanez, with second degree manslaughter and reckless discharge of a firearm. The case came to trial in Ramsey County this month. Upon its conclusion, the jury deliberated for five days. It returned a not guilty verdict this afternoon.

Following the verdict, one of the jurors said that the initial vote had been 10-2 for acquittal, but it it took five days for the two holdouts to go along with the other ten. There were two African-Americans on the jury, neither of whom was one of the two holdouts.

The acquittal of Yanez doesn’t seem surprising. The charge of second-degree manslaughter doesn’t seem quite apt for what happened:

A person who causes the death of another…

(1) by the person’s culpable negligence whereby the person creates an unreasonable risk, and consciously takes chances of causing death or great bodily harm to another

Here, Yanez said that he acted in self-defense. He could have been wrong in believing that Castile was going for his gun, but it is not hard to see why the jury didn’t find that he “consciously [took] chances of causing death or great bodily harm to another.” Basically, if he acted in good faith, he was innocent.

Castile’s death was tragic, but there was one outrageous aspect of the case: Governor Mark Dayton’s instant reaction to the shooting. I wrote about it at the American Experiment web site:

Governor Mark Dayton taught a master class yesterday in how not to respond to a tragedy. It started with the fatal shooting of Philando Castile by a St. Anthony police officer Wednesday evening. The event drew world-wide publicity…. Almost everyone is treating the shooting as unjustified, which may well be the case. But so far, we have not heard from the police officer, who has been identified as Jeronimo Yanez.

Nevertheless, Governor Dayton wasted not an hour before leaping to conclusions. He said, publicly:

Would this have happened if the driver were white, if the passengers were white? I don’t think it would have.

What basis did Dayton have to say that? None. Why assume, having no knowledge of why the officer acted as he did, that this incident has anything to do with race? For what it’s worth, police officers shoot more whites than blacks.

Dayton continued:

So I’m forced to confront, and I think all of us in Minnesota are forced to confront, this kind of racism exists and that it’s incumbent upon all of us to vow that were going to do whatever we can to see that it doesn’t happen, doesn’t continue to happen.

Racism? Really? At the time he spoke, I don’t believe Dayton even knew who the officer was, let alone whether he is a racist. Is there any reason for a governor to jump into a volatile situation like this and start spouting incendiary opinions? I can’t imagine how Dayton can think this is appropriate.
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If Dayton isn’t deliberately trying to stir up racial discord, he is doing a pretty good imitation of such an effort.

Governor Dayton prejudges the case

Dayton blundered further by immediately requesting a federal investigation:

Less than 24 hours after Castile’s death, Dayton contacted the White House to “request that the U.S. Department of Justice begin an immediate independent federal investigation into this matter.” Here, Dayton needlessly and inappropriately abdicated his own responsibility, and the state’s, to investigate and deal with the circumstances surrounding Yanez’s shooting of Castile.

Governor Dayton has not yet reacted publicly to the acquittal of Yanez. If he were a more perceptive man, he would be deeply embarrassed by his ill-advised rush to judgment. But Dayton is the kind of leftist politician who never seems to have second thoughts.

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