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Another police shooting acquittal worries black gun owners

By JESSE J. HOLLAND, Associated Press

This article was published June 17, 2017 at 2:02 p.m.


Family and friends of Valerie Castile and Philando Castile walked out of the courthouse after Jeronimo Yanez was found not guilty on all counts in the shooting death of Philando Castile, Friday, June 16, 2017, in St. Paul, St. Paul, Minn. (Elizabeth Flores/Star Tribune via AP)

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 license,' they automatically are reaching for their gun thinking you're going to draw your gun on them, once again not realizing you're a good guy," said Martin, who lives in Glenside, Pennsylvania.

[Read about recent fatal shootings by police across the country.]

Philando Castile was fatally shot by the officer July 6 in a St. Paul suburb seconds after he told the officer he was armed. Officer Jeronimo Yanez, who is Latino, was acquitted 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."

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 seatbelt and in a car with his girlfriend and her then-4-year-old daughter when he was shot.

"I am so very, very, very ... disappointed in the system here in the state of Minnesota," Valerie Castile said.

Licensed gun owner and open-carry advocate Rick Ector of Detroit said stereotypes can cloud the minds of some officers when dealing with black gun owners. Officers may have had previous encounters with people carrying guns illegally — especially young black men. And that experience can carry over, Ector said.

Once they find out that a black American has a gun permit, "they are not necessarily going to relax, but they now have an idea about your character," Ector said.

Phillip Smith, head of the National African American Gun Association, said police need additional training to remind them that Second Amendment rights apply to black gun owners as much as anyone else.

Like several similar cases, Castile's death was shared worldwide on social media. His girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds livestreamed the aftermath of the shooting on Facebook because, she said, she wanted to make sure the truth was known.

But videos of black people dying at the hands of police have led to few convictions.

"I'm sure people of color are going to say, and rightfully so, what is the burden of proof for an officer to be" convicted? asked Dwayne Crawford, the executive director of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives.

Eric Garner died in July 2014 in New York City after a white officer placed him in a chokehold during an arrest for selling loose cigarettes. Garner complained that he couldn't breathe on video captured by onlookers. A grand jury declined to indict that officer or any others involved in the arrest.

Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old boy with a pellet gun tucked into his waistband, was fatally shot by a white Cleveland police officer in November 2014. But a grand jury declined to indict patrolman Timothy Loehmann, who fired the fatal shot, or training officer Frank Garmback. The city settled Rice's family's lawsuit for $6 million.

Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old boy, was fatally shot by a white officer, Darren Wilson, in August 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. Their confrontation was not captured on video. A grand jury declined to indict Wilson, and the Justice Department opted against civil rights charges. Wilson later resigned.

Only one police officer in recent publicized cases is facing jail time.

South Carolina officer Michael Slager, who is white, shot black motorist Walter Scott in the back as he fled from a traffic stop. Slager pleaded guilty in May to a federal charge of violating Scott's civil rights, and a judge will determine his sentence, which could range from probation to life in prison without parole.

Scott's shooting in April 2015 was captured on cellphone video seen worldwide. It contradicted Slager's original statement that Scott had attempted to grab his Taser.

"This was a clear-cut case of unnecessary, fatal police violence," said Rashad Robinson, executive director of Color Of Change. "District attorneys around the country, from Tulsa to Cleveland to now St. Paul, must be held accountable for their failures to secure justice for victims of police violence."

Associated Press Writer Corey Williams in Detroit contributed to this story.


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Kharma says... June 17, 2017 at 7:41 p.m.

"Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old boy, was fatally shot by a white officer, Darren Wilson,"

Hmmmm. I call BS. He was a man, not a boy, and a strong-arm robber (Google to see him choke the clerk) and then he stupidly and violently attacked an officer. This case started the completely false "Hands up don't shoot" BS. He got his justice in the middle of the street. Nothing any writer, protestor, or malcontent can say will change this fact. The victims in this case include the officer, and the property owners in Ferguson whose property was assailed - not Brown.

Tamir was a true shame and tactically the officers screwed up badly. But, he had what from outward appearances looked to be a deadly weapon, and that was probably his intent at some point earlier in the day.

Michael Slager had no cause to shoot Walter Scott and his conduct afterwards was almost as reprehensible as the shooting He of course is paying for his transgression and the people of Charleston are to be commended for their civility after the fact.

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LRDawg says... June 19, 2017 at 3:16 p.m.

I call B.S. Kharma! Democrat Gazette knows more about these stories than should try reading instead of making your own racially biased opinions. If officers would follow department guidelines (what they were trained to do) these incidents don't happen. Police officers aren't executioners

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Kharma says... June 19, 2017 at 7:09 p.m.

So the DG "knows" that the adult violent criminal, Michael Brown, was a "boy?" Gee, and I thought that black men took offense at being called a boy.

Why don't you report on how ~6.6% of the population - the black males of this country - commit a grossly disproportional percentage of violent crimes, how all but a comparative few black males who die from nefarious means are killed by (wait for it) other black males, and how those 6.6% kill about 1/2 of LE officers killed by homicide. Then you can report back on racial bias. You can use the FBI, Centers for Disease Control, and other websites for your edification.

Here, I'll get you started:

In 2012, white males were 38 percent of the population and committed 4,582 murders. That same year, black males were just 6.6 percent of the population but committed a staggering 5,531 murders.

DOJ statistics show that between 1980 and 2008, black people committed 52% of homicides.

It would take cops 40 years to kill as many black men as have died at the hands of others black men in 2012 alone.

University of Toledo criminologist Dr. Richard R. Johnson examined the latest crime data from the FBI’s Supplementary Homicide Reports and Centers for Disease Control and found that an average of 4,472 black men were killed by other black men annually between Jan. 1, 2009, and Dec. 31, 2012.

Professor Johnson’s research further concluded that 112 black men died from both justified and unjustified police-involved killings annually during this same period.

Anyway, that should get you started on your journey of awareness.

And your continual anti-law enforcement tirades are tiresome as well.

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