I’ll say it up front: Philando Castile screwed up. Big time.
In most reports on the trial, this is the breakdown: Castile, a black man, volunteered to Officer Yanez that he had a permit and a pistol, and he was shot. Seems a little…. simplistic. There’s more involved here.
According to testimony, Yanez ordered Castile to obtain his driver’s license after Castile had already furnished his proof of insurance. That’s when Castile disclosed he had the pistol, and Yanez shot Castile. What’s missing from that anecdote? Castile was moving his hands at the same time he was informing the officer he had a firearm.
That is the part no one seems to want to mention. Because the rest of the story is all too convenient for the narrative.
Go to any article on how to act during a traffic stop and every one will mention your hands. Typically they’ll say to have your hands on the wheel. It doesn’t matter where they are as long as they’re visible. Cops are going to be very obsessed with your hands.
Quoting an article I wrote in 2013 following an incident in Florida:
So when you are pulled over by an officer, turn on all the lights, get and keep your hands completely visible and let the officer do the initial talking. When he or she is done, inform the officer that you have a concealed carry permit and that you have a weapon in that order. Again this is about removing surprises from the picture. If you inform the officer up front about the weapon and give the officer the opportunity to secure it, things will go much smoother than if you fail to disclose you have a weapon and the officer discovers it.
After you inform the officer that you have a permit and a weapon, again in that order, the officer will give you a series of instructions to follow. The officer’s intent at that point is to secure the weapon for their own safety. Every instruction should be followed to the letter. If you cannot follow a particular instruction, say so. Remember, you’ve just now informed a law enforcement officer that you are armed. Cooperation is your only option at that point.
Note: if you live in a constitutional carry State, e.g. Kansas, and have not obtained the State’s concealed carry permit, obviously omit that you have a permit. You can volunteer that you do not have the permit. And DO NOT say you have a “gun”. Use only the word “weapon”.
One other thing to note: as the officer will not come to your window right away, take that as an opportunity to get your license, registration (if required), and proof of insurance out in the open and on the center console. Better yet, put it on the dashboard. This is so you don’t have to search for them. This way you can inform the officer that you have a permit and a weapon, but also inform them that you’ve already retrieved your license, insurance, permit, and registration, and that it is sitting on the center console or otherwise in plain sight.
But if you do not do that ahead of time, remember that you are armed in the presence of a law enforcement officer who has lawfully detained you. DO NOT move your hands after you’ve informed the officer that you are carrying except in response to a direct order and only as ordered.
And DO NOT move your hands WHILE informing the officer that you are carrying. That is the mistake that Castile made. And that is why Yanez was acquitted.
The one thing too many people refuse to acknowledge is the police officer. It’s as if they lose all humanity when they put on their badge. Quoting again my article from 2013:
I think a lot of people forget that the person who pulled them over is someone who treats every encounter as if it could be their last. It isn’t asking much that you do everything in your power to make their encounter with you as smooth and nonchalant as possible.
A police officer is human. With family and friends. Hopes and fears. Yet it seems as if few actually acknowledge this. Yes they have limitations on their power via the Constitution of the United States, and they are trusted with quite a bit of power. But that doesn’t make them any less human than the rest of us.
Too many are overlooking the mistake that Castile made. A glaring mistake that led to his death. A glaring mistake that he very easily could’ve avoided.