Philando Castile was shot and killed by St. Paul, MN, police officer Jeronimo Yanez on July 6, 2016, during a traffic stop for non-working tail lights.
Officer Yanez was charged with second-degree manslaughter and acquitted in a jury trial last Friday.
The verdict is being referred to as a “legal lynching” once again raising questions about whether or not blacks are at undue risk at the hands of police.
The choice of the word “lynching” is freighted with deep-seated imagery and meaning.
Thousands of blacks were murdered in the south and the midwest from 1880 to 1950 by crowds of whites who suspected them of some offense, real or imagined.
The accused would likely as not be dragged through the streets then bound to a stake where ears and other body parts would be cut off; a rope was then placed around their neck.
Often the actual manner of death was by being burned at the stake after which the body was hoisted and riddled by bullets.
If there was anything left of the corpse, such as toes or bones, they would be auctioned off as souvenirs or taken by the crowd.
Thousands would attend the killings.
It was likely that the accused had been in the hands of a sheriff and perhaps in jail.
In many cases the officer fought long and hard to protect the accused, including being handcuffed to them or jailed with them.
Doors would be broken down and jails set on fire to kidnap the prisoner and deny them justice.
It was murder plain and simple and it was also racial terror.
Describing Castile’s death as a lynching undercuts the prolonged terror that those victims, often completely innocent, endured.
According to the Times, Jeffrey Paulsen, a prosecutor, said, “He [Yanez] was making assumptions and jumping to conclusions without engaging in the dialogue he was trained to have in a citizen encounter like this. And that’s his fault, not the fault of Philando Castile.”
Paulsen also said, “If someone were just about to reach in their pocket and pull out a gun and shoot an officer, that’s the last thing they would say,” referring to Castile’s admission that he was carrying a firearm.
When a man dies over broken tail lights and smoking a joint it may not be a lynching but justice is no where in sight.