Last year, I saw the video that Philando Castile’s girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, live-streamed on Facebook. It began just seconds after Officer Yanez shot Philando and showed Philando bleeding to death and groaning softly in the driver’s seat, with Yanez still pointing his gun inside the vehicle.
Now, I’m fairly desensitized to images and video of violence due to constant depictions on television, movies, and social media. I believe it’s safe to say that most of us living in this, the Age of Technology, are. And, truth be told, the site of this man bleeding to death on camera did not really shake me. I’ve seen worse gore.
No, what truly shook me was the dashcam footage of the incident that was released on Tuesday.
In terms of visuals, Diamond’s live-streamed video is much more graphic. It captures Philando’s blood, his pain, and his suffering. The dashcam footage only shows the back of Philando’s vehicle, and Officer Yanez and his partner on either side of the vehicle. It contains no real graphic visual content other than Officer Yanez drawing his weapon and firing it multiple times into Philando’s car.
But the dashcam footage is much, much worse than Diamond’s live-stream.
It’s worse because you can see and hear Philando’s calm compliance. He hands Officer Yanez documentation as soon as it was requested through the driver’s window. He then calmly informs Yanez that he has a firearm. His tone of voice was respectful and quiet.
Castile: “Sir, I have to tell you I do have a…”
Castile: “…firearm on me.”
Castile: “I (inaudible)”
Yanez: “Don’t reach for it then.”
Castile: “I’m, I, I was reaching for…”
Yanez: “Don’t pull it out.”
Castile: “I’m not pulling it out.”
Reynolds: “He’s not!”
Yanez: “Don’t pull it out!”
It’s worse because you can see Yanez’s hand inching toward his firearm the second Philando tells him about his firearm. A firearm that Philando was licensed to carry.
It’s worse because you see Yanez empty his clip into a vehicle with a four-year-old sitting in the back seat.
Reynolds: “You just killed my boyfriend!”
Castile: “I wasn’t reaching…”
Reynolds: “He wasn’t reaching!”
It’s worse because it is stone-cold evidence that Philando Castile did not deserve to die.
And now, I wonder.
I wonder what will become of Philando’s daughter. I wonder about the unimaginable scars on her psyche. I wonder about the nightmares that will haunt her for the rest of her days. I wonder about the inherent fear she will undoubtedly feel toward law enforcement.
I wonder about Diamond Reynolds, Philando’s girlfriend. I wonder about how she had the presence of mind to film the aftermath of the shooting via Facebook Live – a video that captured the attention of a nation. I wonder about what she must have felt at seeing her boyfriend shot in the seat right next to her. I wonder about the fear she must have felt for her daughter in the backseat.
I wonder about Philando Castile. I wonder about how a calm, respectful citizen with a license to carry was deprived of his life.
I wonder about Jeronimo Yanez. I wonder why the fact that a black man willingly and calmly told him that he had a firearm caused Yanez to begin reaching for his own gun. I wonder why Yanez fired seven shots into a vehicle with a little girl in the back seat.
I wonder… and it shakes me.
And I have to ask, what’s going on?
I believe that there is a cycle of contention between minorities and police. Just think about Philando’s little girl. Think about what she witnessed. Do you believe that she will simply forget it with time, and will trust the police officers that she will come into contact with in the future? Or, because she witnessed a police officer kill her father, will she carry a deep-seated mistrust and fear of law enforcement? And, when she one day has children, won’t she, out of love and concern for them, warn them of the dangers that police officers pose to minorities? Won’t she tell them the story of what happened to her father, Philando Castile? And won’t they in turn carry their mother’s words of warning with them throughout their lives?
This cycle has existed for the past 200 years in this country, and it will continue with her, Philando’s baby girl, as it most likely will with countless others who have been touched by tragedies like this one.
How can this cycle of contention and violence be broken? The answer is probably very long and very complicated, but maybe it’s also as simple as the lyrics in a song:
We don’t need to escalate
You see, war is not the answer
For only love can conquer hate
You know we’ve got to find a way
To bring some lovin’ here today.
Picket lines and picket signs
Don’t punish me with brutality
Come on, talk to me
So you can see
What’s goin’ on.”
Carole-Anne can be reached for further comment via email email@example.com