Sun | Jun 25, 2017

Another police shooting acquittal worries black gun owners

Published:Sunday | June 18, 2017 | 6:00 AM
Family and friends of Valerie and Philando Castile walked out of the courthouse last Friday after Jeronimo Yanez was found not guilty on all counts in the shooting death of Philando Castile.

Gerry Martin isn't sure he will ever tell a police officer during a traffic stop that he has a concealed-weapon permit - and possibly a weapon - on him.

The acquittal of a Minnesota officer in the death of a licensed gun owner who volunteered that he had a gun seconds before being fatally shot during a traffic stop adds to the worries of African-American gun owners about how they are treated by police and society.

Acknowledging that they have a weapon, they said, can open them up to violence from police, who can then claim they feared for their lives simply because of the presence of a gun, even a legal one.

"As soon as you say, 'I'm a concealed carry holder. This is my licence,' they automatically are reaching for their gun thinking you're going to draw your gun on them, once again not realising you're a good guy," said Martin, who lives in Glenside, Pennsylvania.

Philando Castile was fatally shot by the officer on July 6 in a St Paul suburb seconds after he told the officer he was armed.

Officer Jeronimo Yanez, who is Latino, was acquitted last Friday of manslaughter and two lesser charges.

During the stop, Castile volunteered, "Sir, I have to tell you, I do have a firearm on me."

Yanez told Castile, "OK, don't reach for it then" and "Don't pull it out."

On the squad-car video, Castile can be heard saying, "I'm not pulling it out," as Yanez opened fire. Prosecutors said Castile's last words were, "I wasn't reaching for it."

SENDING THE WRONG MESSAGE

The verdict "tells African-Americans across the country that they can be killed by police officers with impunity, even when they are following the law," said Cederic Richmond, chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus.

The verdict also tells blacks that "the Second Amendment does not apply to them" because Castile "was honest with the officer about having a weapon in the car, and there is no evidence that he attempted to or intended to use the weapon against the officer", the Louisiana Democrat said.

Outside the courthouse, Castile's mother said Yanez got away with murder. Her son was wearing a seat belt and in a car with his girlfriend and her then four-year-old daughter when he was shot.