Philando Castile told his mother that he was reluctant to carry his legal, permitted, firearm because he was afraid that if he had a run in with the police, they would simply kill him.
Later that day, a Saint Anthony Village police officer pulled Castile over for a broken tail light, and then, at the first opportunity, fired several bullets into his arm and torso. A few moments later, Castile fell into unconsciousness, apparently dead. The police then apprehended Castile’s companion, who was in the passenger seat, and, treating her like a criminal, handcuffed her and stuffed her in the back of a police car. Later, it was confirmed that Castile was killed.
I would give you a trigger warning for the following video, but I don’t care if it triggers you. I want it to trigger you. You and everybody else needs to see this.
I used to live a block from this incident. It is a city called Falcon Heights, which is the location of the inaptly named “Saint Paul Campus” of the University of Minnesota, and also the home of the Great Minnesota Get-together, the Minnesota State Fair. In fact, the intersection at which this killing occurred is at the north entrance of the fairgrounds. This makes me think that it would be a good idea to put a monument there, a monument to how dangerous the police can be, for all the fairgoers to take note of when they go to the fair, from now on.
Back in the old days, a few years ago and on back, when I lived walking distance to the fair and the site of this shooting, the police would be at this intersection in numbers, helping people cross the street, controlling traffic, keeping people safe, during the State Fair. Then, one year, there was a bogus terroristic threat against the fair, so the police apparently redistributed themselves and stopped protecting people at that intersection. Or, perhaps they changed their policy for some other reason. Crossing the street, pulling your car out, etc. was then a matter of every person to themselves. (There were always a few cops standing around watching the chaos, but not helping.) Now, that intersection is added to the ever growing list of American Police killing grounds. Yes, a monument, at this intersection, to remind the people and whatever police might remain controlling traffic during the two week long fair event would be appropriate.
A couple of blocks from this intersection are two or three blocks or corners that are in Saint Paul and that have a bad reputation for crime. As I noted, I used to live there, and after I was no longer living there, my daughter lived there part time for several years. This is the school district she went to. I also worked on that campus for two years. I know the area, and the neighborhoods.
The exact location of the shooting, and to the west and north, is a palatial residential community with small single family houses, and a few bunches of condos and apartment buildings, mainly down the street from where this killing happened. I should mention that Falcon Heights, as well as nearby Lauderdale, and Saint Anthony Village, are all patrolled by a sort of amalgamated police department. These various cities (which adjoin the well known Roseville, MN) share various such services, including police fire, etc. and tend to be umbilically connected to Saint Paul, where the major utilities come from.
The immediate neighborhood is occupied by many people who are connected with the University, a fair number of retired people, some students. Most are white, but there is a strong Asian presence, because this is one of the main neighborhoods into which the Hmong immigrated back in the day. Also, many apartment dwellers in the area are from countries all around the world, because the are connected to a major university. My daughter’s grade school, another block north of the shooting beyond where we lived, is famously international. Each year they hang flags representing all of the countries from which the students come, and there would always be dozens of them.
So that’s the basic cultural context. A neighborhood where bad things don’t happen, filled with people who probably carry out their share of white collar crime (or who are academics, and thus have other problems) but otherwise pretty quiet. Nearby are the scary neighborhoods, the neighborhoods that are actually pretty typical urban zones, with varying degrees of charm, development, decay, all that. Nothing exceptional. But I have the sense that the people of Falcon Heights, Saint Anthony, Lauderdale, and this part of Roseville, a generally liberal and highly educated enclave, collectively identify, label, and talk about those other neighborhoods, which are blacker, crimier, scarier, bits of the “Inner City” (a term disdained by Twin City dwellers, just so you know) creeping out into the “better neighborhoods.”
The victim, of course, was a school employee and citizen of good standing who didn’t live in any of those nearby scary neighborhoods, and was not part of an inner city creeping, even if such a characterization was valid (which it only barely is). But he and the others in the car were black, and they were driving down a street where the city police probably feel a duty to keep the Inner City away, keep the blackness away. One good way to do that is to encourage black people to avoid driving down that particular street, a major local thoroughfare, and instead, stay south and in the city. Let Saint Paul take care of its own problems. Don’t be driving through our quiet neighborhood. How do you do that? Pull over black people with broken tail lights, obviously. Then shake them down. Make them regret driving down that particular street.
People who live in the area know that this is a zone where the cops pull people over all the time. For years I drove down that street twice a day or more, and very often saw people pulled over. The cops even have a trick with traffic speed postings, changing abruptly between 30 mph and 40 mph in a couple of places, allowing them to stop “speeders” more easily. I regard this traffic stop as part of that process, of the police policing the blackness impinging on a neighborhood of special snowflakes.
It is rather shocking that a murder of a citizen by a cop on this street did not happen sooner.