Day 14 - Last Words: Philando Castile

Day 14 - Last Words: Philando Castile

"I wasn't reaching for it."

Philando Castile, 1983-2016

The evening of July 6, 2016, Philando Castile was pulled over by Officer Jeronimo Yanez  and his partner, Joseph Kausner, with the stated reason of a broken brake light in Falcon Heights, Minnesota. According to video from a police dashboard camera, Castile was calm and compliant in following instructions from Officer Yanez. Castile provided his proof of insurance card and said, "Sir, I have to tell you that I do have a firearm on me." 

Yanez placed his right hand on his holstered weapon and said, "Okay, don't reach for it, then." Castile responded, "I'm not pulling it out." Castile's girlfriend Diamond Reynolds, who was riding in the car along with her four year-old daughter, also said, "He's not pulling it out." Yanez yelled, "Don't pull it out!" and quickly pulled his gun from the holster. Yanez fired seven shots at Castile and Reynolds yelled, "You just killed my boyfriend!" Philando Castile's last words were, "I wasn't reaching for it." 

Diamond Reynolds was handcuffed and placed in the back of Officer Kausner's car along with her daughter. Audio from the car recorded the four year-old girl saying, "Mom, please stop cussing and screaming 'cause I don't want you to get shooted."

Under Minnesota law, individuals must obtain a permit to carry a handgun in public, and Castile had obtained a permit to carry the handgun. In June 2017 the city of St. Anthony, Minnesota agreed to pay $3 million to settle a lawsuit filed by the relatives of Philando Castile.

Sources: Washington Post, Minnesota Star Tribune

“We must talk about something even more difficult to put one’s finger on, which for the moment we will call morale, and the assumption on which I am speaking is this: that whether or not we like it, we have reached a point, black and white in this country, where all of the previous systems of communication, negotiation, accommodation, have become unusable.”
— James Baldwin, speech delivered at New York Community Church, September 25, 1963

They always say, "When you encounter police, be respectful, de-escalate, no sudden moves, keep calm." Yet here is Philando Castile, respectful, following orders, permits in order, keeping calm. 40 seconds after the conversation starts, he is dead. Respectability isn't enough to stop the bullets from piercing his heart. No communication, no negotiation, no accommodation can stop the bullets.

Christ Jesus, one of the first things we learn as children is to “do the right thing.” But here is Philando Castile, dead. Murdered. All while doing the right thing and following the rules.

I seem to remember that you broke the law. Jesus, you healed on the Sabbath, ate with sinners, violated the customs. When the system was broken, you could not adhere to it. You ended up dead. Murdered.

Lord, show me which rules I need to break in the name of your holy law. Show me which rules I need to follow in the name of your law-breaking love. Empower us to tear the whole broken system down and build it again on the foundation of your love.
Amen.
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