Sunday, June 25, 2017

A Thin Blue Line for One, Assumed Criminality for the Other

No Minnesota cop would say publicly that Jeronimo Yanez was unreasonable to shoot Philando Castile. That's part of the reason the jury could do what seems unthinkable to me, and find Yanez not guilty. The prosecution had a California-based expert witness, an ex-cop, but that wasn't good enough.

Today the Pioneer Press published a letter to the editor from a Madison, Wis., police detective saying exactly what all cops need to say. Angela Kamoske wrote:

I have been a police officer for 19 years. I love my job and serving my community. I have learned over the course of my career to never assume anything. As I watched the events unfold on July 6, 2016, on a Facebook Live feed, I thought that there must be more that happened. There must have been such a threat that wasn’t captured on this video, that forced Officer Yanez to feel his only option was to shoot into a vehicle with a child in the back seat.

Over the past two days, I have listened to the audio interviews. I have read the documents. And then I watched the dash cam video. And it broke me. Officer Yanez was in a position that if he perceived a threat, he could have disengaged. He could have taken other steps to ensure everyone’s safety, and not have forced this outcome.

Shooting a seat-belted man, with a child in the back seat, was not the only option. Until those of us who wear the badge are willing to stand up and speak out when we see things that are wrong, and lead hard conversations, how can we ever expect change?
Thanks to Detective Kamoske for that. I hope she manages to keep her job and serve the people of Madison.

And in case you didn't hear, in the days following the Castile killing, our state Bureau of Criminal Affairs — which investigates police killings because they can supposedly be impartial! — spent a bunch of time investigating Castile and Diamond Reynolds, especially their cell phones, email, and social media accounts. They didn't look into the killer's accounts at all.

Judges signed seven warrants for Castile's and Reynolds's accounts:
The day after Castile was killed, the BCA got a warrant to go through his car and phone, and a day later for Reynolds’ phone, examining the device as well as all of her incoming and outgoing calls for several days before the shooting.

On July 8, they sent a warrant to Facebook to view the couple’s Facebook accounts, and to make sure it was done without Reynolds’ knowledge.

“[The applicant for the search warrant] is aware through training and experience that individuals frequently call and/or text messages to each other regarding criminal activity during and/or after and event has occurred,” a BCA investigator wrote in his request. “Analysis of text messages and chats regarding the individuals involved in this incident may in fact assist in corroborating or refuting statements made by the individual involved in this investigation.” (emphasis added)
So clearly, 24 hours into the investigation, the BCA was thinking of Castile as a perp, not a victim. He and Reynolds are described in that quote as people who are involved in criminal activity.

Facebook complied with the warrant, "but would not allow the search to be done in secret." Other companies complied, though, and did it in secret, including Apple, which gave access to Reynolds’ iCloud account.

Those searches turned up nothing.

More evidence that the BCA was trying to justify Yanez's initial traffic stop, based on Castile's supposed resemblance to a robbery suspect:
On Aug. 1, the BCA got records from Castile’s cellphone provider to determine his whereabouts before the shooting. They wanted to see if he was potentially a suspect from a May 22 traffic stop, then if he was near a gas station robbed July 2.
Meanwhile, they were interviewing Yanez and telling him he had done a good job.

A month after the shooting, the BCA finally looked into Yanez's phone records, but only after Ramsey County Attorney John Choi insisted that they do so.

Even after that, the BCA wasn't done with their attempts to find justification for the shooting in an imagined criminal past for Castile, though. In early April of this year, as the trial approached, they were searching the state gang database to seek if Castile was included in any way. But of course, found nothing. He was just a regular citizen going about his business. A gun owner who followed the rules and had a permit.

But his skin was the wrong color and he had his hair in locks. Oops.

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