The video shows Yanez pulling over Castile for a busted brake light on July 6, 2016. After he asks for Castile’s license and registration, Castile calmly warns Yanez that he has a firearm on his person.
Yanez then gets visibly agitated and tells Castile, “OK, don’t reach for it.”
“I’m not pulling it out,” Castile says.
Yanez, sounding agitated, again says not to pull the gun out and immediately fires eight shots into the car.
If you haven’t seen the video and care to watch it, it has been reproduced below.
(Note: Another takeaway from this video is not the behavior of Jeronimo Yanez, the officer who shot Castile, but the behavior of Joseph Kauser, his backup. I was fortunate enough to speak with a police officer, who pointed out his behavior, noting how he had his hands in his vest during a traffic stop, not paying attention. After his partner started firing his weapon, he quickly skipped back towards the patrol car instead of providing backup for his partner. He remarked that he has been showing the video to trainees in his department as an example of how NOT to react as a backup officer.)
In an article for Single Dude Travel written about a year ago, I had the following remarks regarding the incident:
Given his experience with pullovers and concealed carry, Castile should have known how to handle the situation much better than he did. But the cop should have handled the situation better instead of panicking and shooting him.
I’ll tell you this much: I’m a white male who sometimes carries concealed, and if I reacted the way Castile did, I could have been shot too.
After watching the video, I stand by my statements; this is a case of someone carrying concealed that reacted in the exact wrong way, in conjunction with a nervous cop who more than likely didn’t need to discharge his firearm in self-defense. And, unlike some who believe that Castile’s race was why he got shot…
Tyrone Terrill, president of the African-American Leadership Council, said the video could further damage community-police relations.
“No, no, no,” Terrill said minutes after viewing the video. “You don’t have to remain calm on this one. You have a right to be outraged. You have a right to be angry. And I would be disappointed if you weren’t outraged, if you weren’t angry. It raises the question — how will you ever get a guilty verdict?”
…this could and likely would have happened to anyone who reacted in a similar manner. If you tell a police officer you’re carrying, and reach into your pocket as he tells you not to… you cannot expect a different result, no matter who you are.
Now we can all wail and gnash our teeth about the state of policing in this country, but it will likely not move the needle much. If you are carrying a concealed weapon, you need to know how to behave when you are pulled over by a police officer. A simple common-sense guide to keep in the back of your head is to listen to the officer’s commands, put your hands on the steering wheel, and don’t make any sudden movements.
When it comes to specifics, Sebastian of PA Gun Blog offers some excellent advice, and summed it up better than I could:
- Don’t tell the officer you’re armed unless you’re in a state where you’re legally required to. This goes against the advice of a lot of trainers (who tend to be former cops and who also tend to know how to deal with armed civilians). Not every cop who pulls you over will be Massad Ayoob. Don’t talk about it, and definitely don’t touch it. The only negative encounter I’ve had in a stop has been in Texas, where I was legally required to inform. In all other cases, I’ve kept my mouth shut and things went smoothly.
- Note that the first bit of advice will only work if you’re not likely to be searched. That’s most of us, but not all of us. If you live in a “duty to notify state” or you fit the profile for being highly likely to be searched, you’ll need to inform the officer. When you inform the officer, don’t even think about uttering the word “gun.” If an officer hears that word, and misses some context, there can easily be an overreaction. I’ve heard this advice from Massad Ayoob at NRA’s legal seminar, and I like it. Turn your license to carry over with your driver’s license and inform the officer you are carrying, where the firearm is, keep your hands on the steering wheel, and ask him what he would like you to do.
- Do not, under any circumstance, make any sudden move once the cop knows you’re armed. Don’t reach for your wallet unless the officer knows what you’re going to do and OKs it. Don’t reach for anything. Don’t do anything without the officer giving you the OK. Don’t even itch your nose. Some cops will want to disarm you. Others will just tell you to sit tight and keep it holstered.
Take note; Sebastian actually recommends you do not inform the police if you are carrying or not unless you must. This is up for debate, but if you’re not breaking the law, you shouldn’t have anything to worry about anyway. Since state laws vary greatly, how do you know where it is legal to inform and when not to? Concealed Nation provided a map in 2015 with specifics:
Note, state laws change rather frequently, and if you are carrying concealed, you need to check up and know what the local laws are before you do choose not to inform an officer that you are carrying concealed.
No matter your opinion on whether the Castile shooting was just a bad accident, an unnecessary overreaction, or criminal negligence, you don’t want to get shot when you’re being pulled over in a traffic stop. Be smart, know how to react, know the local laws, and listen to the police. And before you go smarting off to a police officer about your rights, listen again to what Concealed Nation said on the topic:
Most police officers, when approaching a stopped vehicle, have their own lives to consider first and foremost. Letting them know you mean no harm and have no bad intentions is a great first step to having a positive interaction.
Not all police are duly informed about your Second Amendment rights so it is your job to:
- Remain calm
- Clearly articulate yourself
- Keep your hands visible at all times
- Comply with all legal requests (permit, identification)
If you are in a ‘Duty To Inform’ state, it is your job to inform the police officer that you have a concealed firearm on your person. If the police officer asks to see your concealed carry permit, you must present it.
Even if you are NOT in a ‘Duty To Inform’ state, many police officers will usually be thankful that you are forthright in reporting the presence of a firearm on your person. If the officer tells you he doesn’t care, that’s his prerogative. Giving him the choice is a sign of respect.
Learn from all the mistakes in the Castile situation, and make sure it doesn’t happen to you. Because the last thing you want the cops to think is that you’re one of the bad guys.