Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Alton Sterling and Philando Castile

I talked about the shooting of the police officers in Dallas so I suppose I should address the two incidents that were the immediate motive for the Black Lives Matter demonstration.

But before I do that I'm going to say that NOTHING, absolutely NOTHING, justifies a sniper taking it upon himself to shoot at police officers. We are supposed to be a nations of laws instead we seem to be becoming a nation of lunatics.

Clearly there is no definitive, accepted description of exactly what happened with either Castile or Sterling. The facts are not all in so I can only talk about what seems to be agreed upon.

Philando Castile was driving in Falcon Heights Minnesota with his girlfriend Lavish "Diamond" Reynolds in the passenger seat and her 4 year-old daughter in the rear seat. Philando Castile worked at a St, Paul high school as a cafeteria supervisor. He had no criminal record beyond traffic violations.

Castile was pulled over by two police officers Jeronimo Yanez and Joseph Kauser. Exactly why Castile was pulled over is unclear. Reynolds claims it was for a broken tail light but police chatter from the squad car prior to the stop indicated that the officers thought Castile fit the description of an armed robbery suspect from four days prior.

In any event the officers performed a standard traffic stop rather than a felony stop and approached Castile's car. Yanez asked for his driver's license and registration.

Here's where things get murky. Castile had a concealed carry license and had a gun in the car. I haven't seen anything that indicates exactly where the gun was. Reynolds claims that Castile informed the officers that he had a gun and that he was going to get his wallet which had his license.

Yanez, on the video, is heard to claim he told Castile to stop reaching. Reynolds claims that Castile was putting his hands back up when Yanez opened fired and shot Castile four times. I suppose she means that he was following the officer's instructions.

He had a gun in the car? Another Darwin Award nominee.

If Yanez suspected Castile might have been guilty of armed robbery he would understandably have been on a hair trigger. If he thought Castile was going for the gun that would certainly explain his opening fire. If there was any suspicion they were dealing with an armed felon they should have proceeded accordingly rather than doing a regular traffic stop. You can always apologize later.

If it's decided there was no clear danger this officer is probably toast. If he avoids jail his career as a police officer is probably over.

The Alton Sterling case is even murkier.

Apparently Sterling used to hang out in front of the market selling CDs. Sterling supposedly did have a criminal record including carrying a firearm while in possession of a controlled substance.

A call went in to Baton Rouge police that a man selling CDs had used a gun to threaten someone outside the market.

Officers Howie Lake II and Blaine Salamoni responded to the call.

The officers tasered Sterling, twice. Exactly why they thought that necessary is unclear but Sterling was reportedly a hefty guy. They then wrestled him to the ground and pinned him with one officer on his chest and the other on his thigh.

People were recording the confrontation on their phones and one officer yelled "He's got a gun. Gun!" Officer Salamoni can then be heard to yell "Lake, he's going for the gun!"

Then there were three gunshots and then three more. The store owner reported that the officers then removed a gun from Sterling's pocket.

He had a gun in his pocket? Another Darwin Award nominee.

If they thought he was going for his gun I can understand firing. But six bullets? I suppose in the panic of the moment no one bothers to count. Besides they could have come from two guns. It's not clear which officer or officers fired.

These two seem to have a better case than the cop in Minnesota but who knows?

Both cases are being independently investigated by the Department of Justice which I also find disturbing. It means either local authorities no longer have confidence in their own ability to impartially investigate incidents or, more likely, they no longer believe their investigations will be believed by the public.

Either is a really, really bad thing.

I have no opinions on these two cases because all the facts aren't in. I suppose we shall see what we shall see as the investigations proceed.

No comments: