I owe you and apology. When a Minnesota police officer shot and killed you during a traffic stop last summer, I’m doubted your common sense. For some who watches way too many crime dramas, I couldn’t understand why you would reach for your wallet when a cop was a pointing a gun at you.
Then it happened to me.
Yesterday, I was telling a friend about my encounter with a Knoxville Police Officer, when hit me that I owed you a sincere apology. You see, I remember watching you die moaning on television as the news media shared the details of your interaction with Jeronimo Yanez. I remember telling a friend that it was common sense not to move when a cop is pointing a gun at you.
It was easy for me to be judgemental. I sat in the safety of my home watching your final moments on television.
Now, I understand why you did what you did. I almost did the same thing. It’s instinctual to prove that you are right when someone accuses you of doing something wrong – even if that someone is a gun-wielding cop.
When the Knoxville officer pointed his gun at me and questioned me, I wanted to prove that I wasn’t stealing his mother-in-law’s SUV. I was picking it up after purchasing it from her the previous week. I wanted to put my hands down, reach into my bag to show him my vehicle registration and the bill of sale with his mother-in-law’s signature. I wanted to reach into my pocket, and show him the keys.
I wanted to respond normally to an abnormal situation. My words weren’t convincing him. I thought if I showed him my documentation, he would stop pointing his gun at me, apologize and I would be on my way.
Then your name popped into my head. I thought cops are killing black people. I thought, “Philando Castile died because he moved while an officer pointed a gun at him. He died trying to show that he wasn’t doing anything wrong.”
I didn’t move. I barely breathed. I asked for permission to put down the screwdriver in my hand. I knew that could be perceived as a weapon. I asked for permission to put down my hands. And when officer finally holstered his gun, I allowed myself to exhale.
So, Mr. Castile, I’m sorry I doubted your judgement. I’m sorry, I questioned you for trying to act rationally in an irrational situation. And I want to give a shout out to your girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds. She had the presence of mind to FB live the aftermath of your shooting. I could not have been so brave with a gun in my face and my loved one dying beside me.
When my time came to stare down the barrel of a police officer’s gun, the only thing I could think to do was get my phone and let at least one person know that I was dealing with irrational cops who wouldn’t believe me. If Ms. Reynolds hadn’t shared her video, I might have moved to prove my innocence.