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Jeff Knox on the Philando Castile shooting verdict

Posted by Richard on June 24, 2017

Jeff Knox, director of The Firearms Coalition and son of its founder Neal Knox, has written the best opinion piece I’ve seen about the acquittal of Officer Jeronimo Yanez in the shooting death of Philando Castile. You’ll recall that Castile was stopped because of a broken tail light. He informed Officer Yanez that he had a concealed carry license and a handgun. Here’s the dashcam video of what transpired:

I find it hard to believe that any reasonable, objective person who viewed the first five minutes of that video wouldn’t conclude that Officer Yanez couldn’t control his own fears, panicked, and acted irrationally and irresponsibly. He’s exactly the type of person who should never have a badge and a gun.  Here’s Jeff Knox’s take (emphasis in original):

Yanez demonstrated extremely poor judgment, failed to control a controllable situation, and let that situation take him out of control of himself. It’s always easy to play Monday morning quarterback and point out all of the things someone did wrong, and all of the things they should have done differently, but this is basic training stuff, and Yanez missed it.

Going over the transcript of the dash-cam video, the one word that might have changed everything, and was conspicuously absent, was the simple word “Stop.”

Of course, the dashcam video doesn’t resolve the key bone of contention in the case. Yanez claimed that Castile was pulling his gun out even as Castile insisted he wasn’t. Castile’s girlfriend claimed that he never touched his gun and was pulling out his wallet to present his driver’s license as instructed. Here’s Knox again (bold emphasis added):

… She also claims that when Yanez yelled “Don’t pull it out,” Castile stopped what he was doing and began moving his empty hands back toward the steering wheel, but Yanez began firing anyway.

Prosecutors pointed out that Yanez could have, and should have said something like “Freeze,” or “Put up your hands,” and critics have pointed out that Castile should have known to keep his hands on the wheel until he received specific instructions from Yanez. Both are right, and either of those actions by either of the men would probably have averted the tragedy. But Castile was apparently attempting to obey Yanez’s instructions, and it’s Yanez’s job to be in control of the situation. Seven shots fired at Castile, with a little girl sitting in the back seat, is not control. And though Yanez was only inches away from Castile, two of the seven shots missed him completely.

So Yanez is not only guilty of poor judgment, but of incredibly poor marksmanship as well. Missing completely from no more than a foot away? He must have closed his eyes when he started shooting!

Yanez’ defense attorney argued that Yanez was justified because he feared for his safety and that he was following police protocol. Knox notes that this reveals a larger problem (emphasis in original):

This points up a problem with police training focused on worst-case scenarios, and an irrational fear of anyone else being armed.

The former Chicago police commissioner, actually said that having concealed carry legal in the city would result in permit holders being shot by his officers, because he was training them that, when a gun is present, they should basically shoot first and ask questions later.

Knox goes on to explain one other simple thing Yanez should have done (besides remain calm and control his emotions) to avert the tragedy (emphasis in original):

Something else that was claimed by the defense attorney, was that Yanez couldn’t retreat, and that his only option was to shoot. Experienced officers will tell you that this is just not true. Taking a step toward the rear of the car would have not only taken Officer Yanez out of Castile’s direct line of sight, requiring him to awkwardly try to shoot over his left shoulder – if that was his intention – it would also have positioned him so that firing at Castile would not jeopardize the little girl in the back seat, or the woman in the passenger seat, and it would have created the extra moment needed to determine Castile’s intentions.

Finally, Knox explains, but doesn’t excuse, the NRA’s failure to get involved in the case and refutes the scurrilous charge that the organization’s silence is due to racism:

The NRA has a long record of staying away from violent criminal cases, and especially police shootings. The case of Erik Scott, who was shot down by police as he and his girlfriend exited a Costco in Las Vegas, is a prime example. Scott was white, a West Point graduate and decorated veteran, and licensed to carry concealed, but the NRA didn’t touch that case. Neither did they decry the killing of Jose Guerena, who was shot some 60 times in his own home during an unfounded, and terribly executed police raid in Tucson.

While many of us wish the NRA would get more involved in these cases, they feel they can do more good by helping to train officers better in dealing with armed citizens, and that taking a public stand in controversial police shooting cases, would only harm those efforts.

The NRA is responsible for training many, if not most, police firearms instructors and holds countless law enforcement training classes every year all across the country. They don’t want to jeopardize that relationship. Their thinking is analogous to the reluctance of many prosecutors to bring charges against police officers or use their best efforts in pursuing such charges: an adversarial relationship with the cops would hinder their ability to do their jobs. I understand such thinking, but it’s still wrong.

An honorable man does what he knows to be right even when it’s not in his best interests.

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5 Responses to “Jeff Knox on the Philando Castile shooting verdict”

  1. Richard W. Shultz said

    This is a PERFECT example of what has been my contention for most of my adult life. ALL cops are completely psychotic, trigger happy, arrogant, pipsqueak Hitlers who should not be allowed within 10 FEET of a gun much LESS be allowed to actually carry one. If this video does not completely convince a normal individual, and I consider myself to be as close to the acceptable definition of normal as anyone I have either known or met, that 99%+ cops are ticking time bombs who not only should NOT be cops but who should be LOCKED UP as maniacs, then I honestly don’t know what will. I HAVE to ask myself this question: “Am I the ONLY person that it worries and frightens that the police have killed over 5000 PEOPLE in this country since 911?” It was completely obvious to me that this individual is not only wound WAY too tight to be in possession of a firearm, but is wound way too tight to be walking around free! This tragic event has been terribly common for quite a long time now, and is one of the most IMPORTANT reasons that I am an anarchist. It was also blatant murder, and since this government will take no responsibility for hiring a homicidal maniac and turning him loose on a largely unarmed and unsuspecting public, then PERHAPS an armed citizen with a strong sense of what is right and what is HORRIBLY WRONG should take upon himself the responsibility for taking the obvious proper action.

    • Richard said

      Rick, you need to cut way back on the caffeine. True, too many of the people who go into law enforcement do so because they like having power over others. But I’ve known some decent, honorable, and principled LEOs (including a couple of libertarians). And I’ve had encounters with others who were calm, polite, and professional, and I suspect are that way consistently.

      Don’t you know that ALL generalizations are wrong (including this one)? 🙂

      • Richard Shultz said

        I know that generalizations can sometimes be wrong, but I do NOT now accept the premise and never WILL accept the premise that all generalizations are wrong. Do I NEED to point out that your statement is ITSELF a generalization, and as such, it has every chance of being as completely wrong as anything I said? After all, you DID admit as much in the statement itself. My comment was inspired, as are most of them, by PERSONAL EXPERIENCE and not exposure to caffeine. I have had roughly, ohhh, let’s say 35 years of experiences with cops and out of all of them I cannot think of a single experience where the cop did not act just as I described in my “generalization”. In fact I had another run-in with the bastards just a few days ago. Briefly, what happened was some idiot decided to get completely unnecessary and utterly useless speed bumps installed on my street which caused ANOTHER injury to my spine(as if I NEEDED another one) when I hit them at a rather high speed not realizing that they had been placed there. I threatened to give him the beating he richly deserved for not only causing me ANOTHER permanent injury, but for perverting the entire democratic process by only asking the people that he KNEW would vote YES on his preposterous notion, and NOT asking anyone ELSE(he also failed, intentionally I am certain, to even inform other residents of the meeting and vote that was held) and the gutless coward called the police with whom I had ANOTHER acrimonious and hostile confrontation with which ended in nothing more than them giving me an entirely illegal order not to have any more contact with this fool(an order they had absolutely no legal right to give since by law it has to come from a judge in black and white with HIS SIGNATURE on it!)In addition to this outrage, he failed to inform the people he duped into this clusterf&*k that in the entire 34 years that I have lived on this street, NOT ONE pedestrian has been injured by a moving vehicle. It’s DEAD END for Pete’s sake! And I have no choice but to take exception to the implication that all of my statements were generalizations. At least ONE of them, the one that concerned the PROVEABLE fact that police have indeed killed over 5000 civilians since 911, was NOT a generalization. It was simply an unfortunate truth with which we must deal in some manner. I choose to advocate dealing with this unfortunate situation by removing the ability of the police to kill innocent people. Now, I know you are going to say that not all of them were innocent. I expect this because you are a very thorough and competent debater. BUT…the last time I checked, the presumption of innocence still exists and so it stands to reason that at least some of these 5000 people did nothing wrong whatsoever, but were killed by paranoid, trigger happy statists drunk on their own power. I really WANT to believe in your ideal LEO, but my own experience tells me something ENTIRELY different and I suspect that this is simply another of those subjects such as our disagreement on what should be done about the radical Muslim problem, where we will end up having to agree to disagree simply because, in this particular case at least, our experiences are just too far out of phase.

        • Richard said

          Sigh. No, you don’t need to point out that my statement was a generalization, since I already did so. It’s called humor; that’s why I added a smiley face. I guess I’m just not as good at it as I thought.

          I’m sorry you’ve had such bad experiences with LEOs. Maybe some of that is geographical; I’m willing to entertain the notion that there are more authoritarian assholes in law enforcement in the Southeast than out here in the West, where people in general have more of a live and let live attitude. But you’re right, we should agree to disagree on this.

          As for the police killing 5000 civilians, I’ll take your word for it. Any idea how many of those were trying to shoot or stab the cop when they were shot? I’m guessing the vast majority.

          • Richard Shultz said

            Ok, I guess I probably should apologize for the bitchiness in my last missive. At the time I wrote it I was well aware that you were attempting to lighten up the mood with humor, but I was in severe pain from the latest degeneration to the spondylosis of my L5-S1 vertebral joint caused by the sudden deceleration at the end of the trajectory my vehicle was put into by it’s hard bounce over the ugly plastic Las Vegas pyramid placed in the middle of the road without my knowledge by that STUPID BASTARD with whom I will get even before this is over, and so it just wasn’t that funny at the time. I wish I could better authenticate the number of people in the data I quoted on how many deaths police have caused amongst civilians since 911 but as it is a result of an honest effort to combine state databases and, as such is as accurate as it is possible to be since the feds (on purpose I’m sure)don’t keep that particular data where it’s possible to just google it. But permit me to point out that even if your “vast majority” estimate on who was or was not innocent(which I must point out leads me to believe that you are purposefully ignoring the presumption of innocence as well)is even close to accurate(let’s use a figure of 90% GUILTY shall we?)then THAT means that 250 innocent people were over a period of call it 17 years(or about 204 months) murdered by the bastards in blue. If you do the math then an average of between 2 and 3 people a month have been gunned down for NOTHING over these last 17 years. Now, if you ask me, which course you haven’t but let’s just suppose, then that’s a fair number of innocent people who are being shot down and seems to correlate fairly well with the number of people who are getting shot by cops every month NOW. And since in the majority of the videos that I’ve seen come from a variety of places that would seem to indicate to ME at least that the number seems to have more to do with my contention that the majority of cops are trigger happy, arrogant, Neanderthals who should not have GUNS than your contention that it could be geographic. And if it weren’t for the fact that you lived in my area for quite some time I might think that your remark about the southeast was a deliberate insult. Of course it could just be that I feel that the killing of even 1 innocent person a YEAR by these Knights of the Shining Badge is one too many.

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