'Both Sides Need To Change': One Deputy's Perspective On Life After Philando Castile Shooting

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A police officer bikes through a protest on July 17, 2017 in Minneapolis, Minn. Demonstrations have taken place each day since a jury acquitted police officer Jeronimo Yanez in the shooting death of Philando Castile. (Stephen Maturen/AFP/Getty Images)
A police officer bikes through a protest on July 17, 2017 in Minneapolis, Minn. Demonstrations have taken place each day since a jury acquitted police officer Jeronimo Yanez in the shooting death of Philando Castile. (Stephen Maturen/AFP/Getty Images)

This week, the family of Philando Castile reached a nearly $3 million settlement with the city of St. Anthony, Minnesota. Castile was shot and killed by former St. Anthony Police officer Jeronimo Yanez, who was acquitted by a jury.

Following an emotional conversation with John Thompson, a friend of Castile, Here & Now's Robin Young looks at how supporters of Yanez are moving forward amid tension in the Twin Cities with Dustin Reichert (@dustin_reichert), a retired sheriff's deputy in Minnesota who attended the Yanez trial.

Interview Highlights

On his perspective of the Yanez trial's outcome

"It's not as simple, I think, as everybody's saying. There's a difference between saying and verbalizing what you're going to do and what you physically do as an act. What we have here is the perception of Officer Yanez hearing the verbal part about the gun, but seeing a different action."

On killing someone and getting shot on duty

"You know, it is scary. There is a lot of fear in there. I know there was a lot of discussion with the Officer Yanez case about fear and scariness. That doesn't mean we mean we're not gonna do our job, but yeah, there was a lot of fear there. Just in the middle of it as fast as it went, which was about five to eight seconds, and I think the moment the first bullet hit me, everything slowed down, like almost 'The Matrix.'

"I had already hit him with what turned out to be a lethal shot, and he was still able to get two rounds to hit me, and when that first one hit me I thought, 'Oh, I just got…' and before I could say the word 'shot' the second one hit me. And so much happens. My gun went flying. I'm watching it going flying. I'm trying to visually see it so I can get to it to protect myself, and my son's running — I have a 4-year-old child at the time — and my son's running through my head, and my nephew and niece grew up without a father because he had passed away, and I just kept resonating with my head as I was trying to crawl to safety... That whole time [I was thinking], 'This isn't gonna happen. He's not gonna shoot me.' But I have to continue tactically, and the entire time, until the point that he had that gun pointed straight at me, I thought, 'There's no way he's gonna shoot me.'"

On how he thinks the Yanez case has impacted police

"The conversations that I have are pain, frustration. I think everybody understands and sees why the family of Castile would be hurt, I think the frustration is that they don't see that an officer would wanna protect themselves. We're at the point now where it's gonna be tough, second-guessing, 'If I pull this car over, do I have to worry about defending myself? Do I have to worry about being prosecuted?' And quite frankly, there's not a police officer yet that believes this should have been charged."

On how he responds to people who say African Americans get disproportionately pulled over by police

"You know, it's a fine line. Police officers aren’t the ones that set the laws. But these are the ways that a police officer can help clean up an area that's a problem area. In this particular case we know that Officer Yanez used it as a pretext stop to determine if he really did think that might be a person that fits the description of the robbery suspect."

Robin Young: "There was a robbery in the area. But what you just said confirms what a lot of people in the community think. That these are stops with some other suspicion in mind… And when you have that mindset, that you’re going to be more prepared to shoot."

Dustin Reichert: "Do the general public think that sometimes? Absolutely. My wonder is if that same community would also question afterwards if that had been the robbery suspect, and later on did another robbery where somebody was killed or hurt, and they found out later that Officer Yanez hadn't stopped that car, what would they be judging then? It's a very tough decision to make."

On what he thinks is needed to heal

"You know, the answer is — let me upset both sets of groups — both sides need to change. In no way am I gonna to say police officers are perfect. It’s hard to do a job when you go out every day and people look at you and sneer at you and hate you for what you do, while you're trying to do good. And in no way would it be pleasurable to be driving around the street and feel like everybody's looking at you different because you're a different color. Both sides need to change how they react, though.

"You know, I tell this to my own kids, who — two of the three are blonde, they're blue eyed, they're very white kids — and I tell them: 'If you get pulled over, you turn on the overhead light, you turn off your radio, you roll down your window, and you put your hands on your steering wheel at 10 and 2. 'Yes sir, no sir.' It's not about giving the officer respect because you like them. It's about making sure your intentions are clear, and I think that that's a huge problem that we have right now. We're so anti-police that both sides are gonna continue to fight and separate. So to bring them together we can continue to ask police officers to do a little bit better every day, but we're not asking the community. But until we learn to bring that calm down on both sides, I don't think we'll ever get a fix.”

This article was originally published on June 29, 2017.

This segment aired on June 29, 2017.



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