What To Make Of Philando Castile's Death, One Year Later

Jun 20, 2017
Originally published on June 21, 2017 10:59 am

As soon as Philando Castile's mother Valerie heard last week that a Minnesota jury had acquitted Jeronimo Yanez, she stood up and declared "f*** this!" and left the courtroom. That's according to Minnesota Public Radio reporter Riham Feshir, who was there, and talked to Code Switch about it for this week's episode.

That trial ended Friday after five days of deliberations with a not guilty verdict for Yanez, the officer who fatally shot Castile as he sat in a car on July 6 of last year.

As NPR's David Schaper reported, "It really came down to whether the jury believed Yanez when he testified that he was scared for his life and thought Castile was grabbing for his gun as he sat in that car."

As millions of people witnessed on Facebook, Castile's girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, captured the moments after the shooting in a live video stream as Castile sat slumped and bleeding in the front seat. Reynolds' four-year-old daughter was in the back.

"The system continues to fail black people, and it will continue to fail you all," Valerie Castile told a crowd outside the courthouse. "My son loved this city and this city killed my son. And the murderer gets away. Are you kidding me right now?"

Yanez had said he believe Castile was reaching for a gun that was in the car, and one of his lawyers told The Associated Press that the defense was "satisfied" with the verdict.

Hundreds of people took to the streets of St. Paul on Friday to protest.

Castile's death reverberated with a nation already reeling from a series of fatal shootings of black men by police. Such incidences have continued this year: So far in 2017, according to The Washington Post's shooting database, 112 black people have been fatally shot by police officers, including Charleena Lyles in Seattle; Desmond Phillips in Chico, Calif.; and Jordan Edwards in Balch Springs, Texas.

As the news of the acquittal spread, we thought it would be worthwhile to revisit some of the compelling writing about these shootings over the past year.

Last July, Jezebel's Kara Brown wrote about the repetitive, exhausting nature of the deaths:

"We must sit with the footage of these incidents, which fill in what our imagination would write otherwise, and wonder if one of these horrifying videos will ever result in change. So far they have not. Some people will sit with their children to teach them to be cautious around state agents ostensibly tasked with protecting them. Some will cry and some will rage. Some of us will write."

The author and essayist Roxane Gay published this essay, in which she meditated on her own safety as a black woman:

"I thought about my own obsessive ritual when I get in my car—making sure I have my license, registration, current proof of insurance—because if pulled over for Driving While Black, I cannot afford any missteps. They might cost me my life.

This is no way to live, this is not freedom, always holding your breath, always feeling like a target, always worrying about the men and women you love, hoping they won't run into a police officer who cannot control his fear."

And Vann Newkirk II, a writer for The Atlantic, was reeling from all of the shootings:

"The next shooting may not come tonight or tomorrow. By the math, though, every two days a black person of some age—14 or 18 or 43 or 37—armed or unarmed, sober or under the influence, resisting arrest or providing officers with identification will be shot and killed by an officer or officers. Video of the incident will likely be circulated. Protests will likely follow. But any sort of end to this violence remains truly unlikely."

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.