While Allahpundit gave a fair and thorough analysis last night of the conclusion of Jeronimo Yanez’s trial and the newly released dashcam footage of the shooting of Philando Castile, I really need to add a few things this morning. First of all, I should admit that I totally dropped the ball on this one. I tend to follow all of the contentious police shootings in the news and attempt to do so fairly and with an open mind, but I never dug into this story or even touched on it here. I have no excuse for that. Now that I’m playing catch-up at the end of the proceedings I can see I really missed the boat.
I caught some flack for a tweet last night in which I not only invoked the NRA (more on that in a moment) but said that this video was “nearly as bad as the Slager shoot.” While I attempted to expand on that thought a few minutes later, 140 characters only gives you so much to work with and I wanted to clarify that a bit. I was attempting to say that the video, as well as the completely senseless nature of the death were nearly as awful as the witness cell phone video of former officer Michael Slager shooting Walter Scott in South Carolina. I was not attempting to put Jeronimo Yanez on the exact same level as Slager.
We’ve wound up covering a number of police shootings here and they describe a range of different scenarios. Some of them, while hotly debated in the press, turn out to be completely justified uses of lethal force, such as the case of Michael Brown in Ferguson. This is the case with virtually all such law enforcement encounters, with few exceptions. Others are horrible, tragic accidents which shouldn’t have happened, but circumstances reveal that there wasn’t much the cops could have done to avoid it. That was my conclusion in the case of Tamir Rice. And then there are the exceedingly rare (thankfully) cases of cops who simply flat out murder someone. That’s the conclusion I arrived at with Michael Slager after he executed Walter Scott and attempted to dirty up the crime scene to cover his tracks.
In the shooting of Philando Castile, I tend to largely agree with Allahpundit’s conclusions from last night. This doesn’t have the odor of a cop who was out to murder someone (despite his obviously questionable comments on the radio prior to the stop). But this was definitely a guy who was either entirely lacking in proper training for such situations or possibly had the training but was totally unsuited for a job in law enforcement based on his temperament. We saw an officer who was, as AP described it, completely in panic mode after being informed by the driver that there was a legally owned firearm in the vehicle. As such, he surely wasn’t guilty of premeditated murder over this, but he was clearly guilty of something. Involuntary manslaughter sounded about right. It’s easy enough to say that none of us know how we would have reacted in the same situation, but that’s not a good enough excuse. The guy is (or was) a cop. It’s his job to be ready for that.
The other reason I wanted to check in on this story has to do with the somewhat muted initial response to this case by the National Rifle Association and the total lack of follow-up after that, at least thus far. I received some less than constructive criticism when I tweeted about that last night as well. I brought it up after seeing this article in The Guardian about Colion Noir, a prominent black member of the NRA.
“Yanez walking away from this case a free and clear man is just wrong,” Noir wrote in an impassioned online post on Sunday. Though he despised “race-baiting”, Noir wrote, “covert racism is a real thing and is very dangerous.
“Philando Castile should be alive today. I don’t feel [Yanez] woke up that day wanting to shoot a black person. However, I keep asking myself, would he have done the same thing if Philando were white?”
All too often we see issues of race dragged into instances of lethal force encounters for no real reason, but in this case it’s rather hard to ignore. I’m not saying that the NRA should be out there leading the charge in calling for Yanez’s head on a platter because, as I already noted, this wasn’t a Michael Slager type of killing. But by the same token, we should all want the organization to speak up on behalf of the rights of all law abiding gun owners. The group has developed too much of a reputation as an organization populated by old white guys. But we don’t want the NRA to be just for old white guys. It needs to represent everyone who supports and defends the Second Amendment and stays on the right side of the law. This is much the same as many other elements of conservative philosophy which are all too often viewed as “white issues” when they should be properly treated as issues which affect and benefit everyone equally.
With those thoughts in mind, considering how Castile had done everything we are supposed to do as responsible, law abiding gun owners, the NRA could benefit us all by coming out more strongly than ever in this instance. We expect gun owners to behave responsibly and this tragic death is a reminder that we should expect no less from our law enforcement officers. They need to be trained and ready at all times to properly respond to any legal owners of firearms they may encounter in the course of their duties, and when they fall short of that ideal they must be held accountable. Otherwise, we’ll never break through this stereotype of the Second Amendment being “a white issue” which is held by too many in our nation.