Black gun own­ers wor­ried by ac­quit­tal in Castile shoot­ing

South Florida Times - - FRONT PAGE - By JESSE J. HOL­LAND

ST. PAUL, Minn. - Gerry Martin isn't sure he will ever tell a po­lice of­fi­cer dur­ing a traf­fic stop that he has a con­cealed­weapon per­mit - and pos­si­bly a weapon - on him.

The ac­quit­tal of a Min­nesota of­fi­cer in the death of a li­censed gun owner who vol­un­teered that he had a gun sec­onds be­fore be­ing fa­tally shot dur­ing a traf­fic stop adds to the wor­ries of African-Amer­i­can gun own­ers about how they are treated by po­lice and so­ci­ety.

Ac­knowl­edg­ing that they have a weapon, they said, can open them up to vi­o­lence from po­lice, who can then claim they feared for their lives sim­ply be­cause of the pres­ence of a gun, even a le­gal one. “As soon as you say, `I'm a con­cealed carry holder. This is my li­cense,' they au­to­mat­i­cally are reach­ing for their gun think­ing you're go­ing to draw your gun on them, once again not re­al­iz­ing you're a good guy,” said Martin, who lives in Glen­side, Penn­syl­va­nia. Phi­lando Castile was fa­tally shot by the of­fi­cer July 6 in a St. Paul sub­urb sec­onds af­ter he told the of­fi­cer he was armed. Of­fi­cer Jeron­imo Yanez, who is Latino, was ac­quit­ted Fri­day of man­slaugh­ter and two lesser charges.

Dur­ing the stop, Castile vol­un­teered, “Sir, I have to tell you, I do have a firearm on me.”

Yanez told Castile, “OK, don't reach for it then'' and “Don't pull it out.”

On the squad-car video, Castile can be heard say­ing,“I'm not pulling it out,” as Yanez opened fire. Prose­cu­tors said Castile's last words were, “I wasn't reach­ing for it.”

The ver­dict “tells African-Amer­i­cans across the coun­try that they can be killed by po­lice of­fi­cers with im­punity, even when they are fol­low­ing the law,” said Rep. Cedric Rich­mond, a Louisiana Demo­crat who is chair­man of the Con­gres­sional Black Cau­cus.

The ver­dict also tells blacks that “the Sec­ond Amend­ment does not ap­ply to them'' be­cause Castile ``was hon­est with the of­fi­cer about hav­ing a weapon in the car, and there is no ev­i­dence that he at­tempted to or in­tended to use the weapon against the of­fi­cer,” the Louisiana Demo­crat said. Out­side the court­house, Castile's mother said Yanez got away with mur­der. Her son was wear­ing a seat­belt and in a car with his girl­friend and her then-4-year-old daugh­ter when he was shot.

“I am so very, very, very ... dis­ap­pointed in the sys­tem here in the state of Min­nesota,” Va­lerie Castile said.

Li­censed gun owner and open-carry ad­vo­cate Rick Ec­tor of Detroit said stereo­types can cloud the minds of some of­fi­cers when deal­ing with black gun own­ers. Of­fi­cers may have had pre­vi­ous en­coun­ters with peo­ple car­ry­ing guns il­le­gally - es­pe­cially young black men. And that ex­pe­ri­ence can carry over, Ec­tor said.

Once they find out that a black Amer­i­can has a gun per­mit, “they are not nec­es­sar­ily go­ing to re­lax, but they now have an idea about your char­ac­ter,” Ec­tor said.

Phillip Smith, head of the Na­tional African Amer­i­can Gun As­so­ci­a­tion, said po­lice need ad­di­tional train­ing to re­mind them that Sec­ond Amend­ment rights ap­ply to black gun own­ers as much as any­one else. Like sev­eral sim­i­lar cases, Castile's death was shared world­wide on so­cial me­dia. His girl­friend, Di­a­mond Reynolds, livestreamed the af­ter­math of the shoot­ing on Face­book be­cause, she said, she wanted to make sure the truth was known. But videos of black peo­ple dy­ing at the hands of po­lice have led to few con­vic­tions.

“I'm sure peo­ple of color are go­ing to say, and right­fully so, what is the bur­den of proof for an of­fi­cer to be” con­victed? asked Dwayne Craw­ford, the ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Na­tional Or­ga­ni­za­tion of Black Law En­force­ment Ex­ec­u­tives.

Eric Garner died in July 2014 in New York City af­ter a white of­fi­cer placed him in a choke­hold dur­ing an ar­rest for sell­ing loose cig­a­rettes. Garner com­plained that he couldn't breathe on video cap­tured by on­look­ers. A grand jury de­clined to in­dict that of­fi­cer or any oth­ers in­volved in the ar­rest.

Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old boy with a pel­let gun tucked into his waist­band, was fa­tally shot by a white Cleve­land po­lice of­fi­cer in Novem­ber 2014. But a grand jury de­clined to in­dict pa­trol­man Ti­mothy Loehmann, who fired the fa­tal shot, or train­ing of­fi­cer Frank Garm­back. The city set­tled Rice's fam­ily's law­suit for $6 mil­lion.

Michael Brown, an un­armed 18-year-old, was fa­tally shot by a white of­fi­cer, Dar­ren Wil­son, in Au­gust 2014 in Ferguson, Mis­souri. Their con­fronta­tion was not cap­tured on video. A grand jury de­clined to in­dict Wil­son, and the Jus­tice Depart­ment opted against civil rights charges. Wil­son later re­signed.

PHOTO COUR­TESY OF YOUTUBE.COM

Phi­lando Castile was shot by Of­fi­cer Yanez.

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