Barely seven seconds passed from the moment Philando Castile alerted Officer Jeronimo Yanez that he had a gun in the car and the moment when Yanez fired seven shots at Castile, dash camera video released by the St. Anthony, Minnesota police department on Tuesday afternoon reveals.
In those seven seconds, Castile and girlfriend Diamond Reynolds tried more than once to tell Yanez that the slain man was not reaching for the weapon.
The video also captures Yanez giving his first explanation of what happened from his perspective. “He was just staring straight ahead. I was getting fucking nervous,” Yanez tells a colleague near the end of the clip released Tuesday. “It was just getting hinky.”
The suddenness of Yanez’s fatal choice makes a stark contrast to the long moments that elapse before any officer attempts to render first aid to Castile. A full five minutes elapse in the video between Yanez’s shots and the moment that another officer from a neighboring jurisdiction begins chest compressions.
Later in the video, Yanez makes his first attempt at recounting what happened and explaining why he killed Castile. Colleagues who arrived on the scene ask him very specific questions about what happened. In a shaky voice, six and a half minutes after shooting Castile, he recounts the events as he remembered them:
After explaining his nervousness, colleagues say it’s time to get him out of there and the video ends.
The five minutes it took to for someone to attempt to give first aid to Castile is double the amount of time it took police in Oklahoma to begin rendering aid to Terence Crutcher last fall as he lay bleeding from a single shot from Officer Betty Jo Shelby’s service weapon. It is also roughly as long as it took for anyone to attempt to aid Tamir Rice — and in that case, it was an FBI agent who happened to be nearby who began first aid on the dying child while the officer who killed him looked on.
The list of similar examples is long: Alton Sterling in Louisiana; Walter Scott in South Carolina; Akai Gurley in New York; Jermain McBean in Florida; Eric Garner in New York; Tanisha Anderson in Ohio; and on and on.
The phenomenon repeats so often in part because on-duty shootings place police in a vice between their official obligations and their training. Officers “have an affirmative obligation to see that citizens they shoot receive timely medical attention,” police shootings expert and ex-cop David Klinger of the University of Missouri-St. Louis wrote in a 2012 article.
But Klinger and other experts who have written on the topic advise officers to put that obligation second to their instincts about their own safety. The courts have ruled that officers cannot be held culpable for deaths they could have prevented by providing swifter first aid to citizens they just shot.
An officer’s calculus can be further slanted against rendering prompt aid by common ancillary training programs like those offered by Warrior Mindset author Dave Grossman. Grossman’s firm instructs officers to think like superheros whose interactions are likely to require fatal force, as policing expert Radley Balko has detailed.
Yanez had participated in a training run by Grossman’s firm roughly two years before he killed Castile.
Yanez was acquitted of multiple criminal charges stemming from the killing on Friday afternoon. He has been dismissed from the small suburban police department where he served. But his attorney, Thomas Kelly, told reporters he suspects his client will be able to continue his law enforcement career elsewhere.
“Because he has such a good reputation within the law enforcement community I’m sure if he wanted to find another department he would not have any difficulty,” Kelly said.