Thursday, July 07, 2016

Philando Castile's Broken Taillight

Killed during a traffic stop: Philando Castile
If you want a sense of just how far this nation has veered from the ideals and principles on which it was founded, look no further than the Minneapolis / St. Paul suburb of Falcon Heights, Minnesota.

Not 48 hours after Alton Sterling was killed by two Baton Rouge, Louisiana police officers who shot him multiple times in the back and chest (even though they had him pinned to the ground), the world is horrified by yet another killing of an African-American man by an apparently trigger-happy police officer.

As you've likely heard, the circumstances are beyond disturbing.

Philando Castile, a 32-year old school cafeteria manager who'd worked at the J.J. Hill Montessori Magnet school for over 12 years where coworkers said he knew all the kids by name, had just gotten a haircut and gone grocery shopping in preparation for his birthday with his girlfriend Diamond "Lavish" Reynolds and her four-year old daughter when an as-yet unnamed member of the St. Anthony Police Department pulled them over for a broken taillight.

How this officer shot him four to five times almost immediately after asking Castile for his ID remains a mystery, but his girlfriend managed to use her cell phone to live-stream what happened moments after the shooting live on Facebook.

The video that's been widely shown actually flipped the perspective, Castile was the driver and Reynolds was in the passenger seat - her young daughter was in the car at the time of the shooting and what prompted a police officer to pull out his gun and start firing at point blank range with a little girl in the back seat is totally beyond me.

Regardless,Castile became one of the 506 people shot and killed by members of American law enforcement this year so far; 123 of them African-American.

In last night's blog I made my feelings pretty clear on the crisis of biased police practices and rampant police misconduct

Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton
The Governor of Minnesota Mark Dayton, speaking to crowds gathered in front of the Governor's Mansion earlier today, asked the pertinent question on the minds of millions of Americans right now, "Would this have happened if those passengers, the driver and the passengers were white?"

Obviously I am not the only person genuinely angered over the events of the past 48 hours, events which come in the wake of similar killings that garnered global attention over the past few years that constitute what the New York Times quoted Governor Dayton as calling, "a pattern of violence towards blacks."

But rather than simply repeat what I wrote last night, and have written in dozens of other blogs over the years in the wake of the unjustified killings of  black, white and Hispanic men, women and children by members of law enforcement, the words of an experienced American law-enforcement expert offer needed insight.

Former Seattle Chief of Police Norm Stamper
I think it might be more instructive to listen to the analysis of former Seattle Chief of Police Norm Stamper.

During a really thought-provoking interview on The Brian Lehrer Show this morning on WNYC, Stamper spoke in depth about the mindset of frightened police officers and how they lose both perspective and self-control.

The harrowing 9-minute videotape, is not easy to watch, but I think everyone needs to see it.

It's clear that the officer, still pointing a loaded handgun at Castile as he is bleeding to death from his gunshot wounds, is in a heightened state of fear and is on the verge of hysteria as Reynolds talks to the camera.

It's outrageous that this travesty was the result of a guy being stopped for a broken taillight.

At the gym earlier today, I was watching live coverage of FBI Director James Comey testifying before the House on the decision not to prosecute Hillary Clinton, Maryland Congressman Elijiah Cummings in his closing remarks, took a few moments to urge Comey to use the resources of the F.B.I to find a way to address this disturbing and deadly trend in America.

A lot of people including myself are hoping for some kind of direction from the federal government in terms of the investigation of this case; because right about now there is zero faith in the ability of local and state police to conduct an objective and thorough analysis of what happened on this quiet suburban street last night.

Or determine how an upstanding citizen with no criminal background who was fully employed at a school and taught to respect members of law enforcement, ended up shot dead because the taillight of his car was broken.

Gov. Mark Dayton addresses protesters [Getty Images]
As New York Mayor Bill DeBlasio said today in response to the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, these unjustified killings represent a "Horrible American pattern that has to end."

Without some kind of decisive landmark action on the part of the Justice Department, action which has been sorely lacking in the wake of the slate of police shootings that have taken place across the nation in recent years, I don't know how this pattern is going to end.

Not as long racially biased policing and the systematic use of unwarranted and excessive use of force in this nation goes unchecked by courts of law.

I've had a left front running light that's been out on my Honda CRV for the past couple weeks, it's been so busy at work I've been putting it off.

After work tomorrow I'm driving right over to Princeton Honda and getting it replaced, because the brutal reality in 21st century America is that things like that can get you killed if you're black and in the wrong place at the wrong time; and run into the wrong cop.

As poor Philando Castile's broken taillight makes abundantly clear.

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