Rob Burgess

When I first heard about the case of Philando Castile, it took a few days before I watched the sickening video of the final moments of his life.

At around 9 p.m. July 6, 2016, Castile was driving a white 1997 Oldsmobile through Falcon Heights, Minnesota. His girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, and her 4-year-old daughter were also in the car when they were pulled over by St. Anthony Police Department officers Joseph Kauser and Jeronimo Yanez. Castile told Yanez he was armed and had a gun permit. Yanez then shot Castile seven times as he reached for his identification. Reynolds then started recording a Facebook Live video, which was eventually seen millions of times.

“Stay with me,” she tells her dying boyfriend. “We got pulled over for a busted tail light in the back and the police … killed my boyfriend. … He’s licensed to carry. He was trying to get out his ID and his wallet out his pocket, and he let the officer know that he was, that he had a firearm and that he was reaching for his wallet and the officer just shot him in his arm.”

Yanez knows he’s in the wrong. He’s crying and screaming and cursing as he points his weapon at the occupants.

“I told him not to reach for it! I told him to get his head up!” he yells.

Calmly, Reynolds contradicts him.

“He had. You told him to get his ID, sir, his driver’s license,” she said.

Castile died minutes later. It took nearly six months, but Yanez was eventually charged with second-degree manslaughter and two counts of dangerous discharge of a firearm. Friday, a jury acquitted him of all charges. Philando’s mother, Valerie Castile, didn’t hold back outside the courthouse.

“I am so disappointed in the state of Minnesota,” she said. “My son loved this state. He had one tattoo on his body, and it was of the Twin Cities. ... My son loved this city, and this city killed my son, and the murderer gets away — are you kidding me right now? We are not evolving as a civilization, we are de-evolving. … Damn! What is it going to take? I’m mad as hell right now. Yes, I am.”

The more I learned about the admirable man Philando Castile was in life, the worse I felt about his death and the aftermath.

“Castile, who was known by friends as Phil, was a cafeteria supervisor at J.J. Hill Montessori Magnet School in Saint Paul, Minnesota, where he memorized the names of the 500 children he served every day — along with their food allergies, Joan Edman, a recently retired paraprofessional at the school, said,” reported Time’s Melissa Chan July 7, 2016.

As I wrote in my Aug. 28, 2013 column, “A good woman without a gun,” a week after the Dec. 14, 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the National Rifle Association, called for armed educators and proclaimed: “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun, is a good guy with a gun.”

Well, Wayne, I submit to you Philando Castile was your fabled good guy with a gun. And, where is the NRA on this case?

“As the nation’s largest and oldest civil rights organization, the NRA proudly supports the right of law-abiding Americans to carry firearms for defense of themselves and others regardless of race, religion or sexual orientation,” read their statement from two days after the shooting. “The reports from Minnesota are troubling and must be thoroughly investigated. In the meantime, it is important for the NRA not to comment while the investigation is ongoing. Rest assured, the NRA will have more to say once all the facts are known.”

I’d say “all the facts are known” now, right? Where are you, Wayne? Anyone home? As of Monday evening, when I’m filing this, I still see not one word from this group. Even if some half-hearted statement were to be released now, it’d be too little, too late. The group’s deafening silence in the immediate aftermath of the verdict tells you everything you need to know.

Rob Burgess, Tribune city editor, may be reached at




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