On his program last week, conservative activist and radio host E.W Jackson professed his support for the recent acquittal of Officer Jeronimo Yanez, who shot and killed African-American driver Philando Castile in front of his girlfriend and her four-year-old daughter last summer during a traffic stop in Minnesota. Jackson, who was the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor of Virginia in 2013, called Castile’s death “tragic” and “horrible,” but placed most of the blame on Castile for supposedly being “poorly trained and poorly taught” in gun safety.
Jackson’s assessment of the killing was based on his own subjective interpretation of police dash-cam footage, claiming “that the police officer did not overreact” because Castile never should have admitted that he was legally carrying a gun in the first place. “The moment you do that,” Jackson said, “you put that police officer on edge, needlessly.”
“If you look at the video,” Jackson asserted, Officer Yanez “reaches in the window with his left hand, and you’ve got to assume that he’s doing that to try to grab Philando Castile’s arm so that he would not take the weapon out.”
In spite of the fact that the dash-cam footage does not show what happened inside of the car, Jackson confidently asserted that Castile “must have gotten that gun out, and when he did, that officer must have felt like ‘I don’t know what your intentions are, I have no choice.’”
The narrative that Jackson proposed directly contradicts autopsy evidence and testimony from the trial, which concluded that Castile was not reaching for a weapon:
Prosecutor Jeff Paulsen highlighted autopsy evidence in his closing argument, reminding the jury of a bullet wound to what would have been Castile’s trigger finger — and that there was no corresponding bullet damage nor wounds in the area of Castile’s right shorts pocket, where he carried his gun. He also cited testimony from first responders who saw Castile’s gun in his pocket as he was loaded onto a backboard.
Jackson’s account also ignores Castile’s last words, “I’m not pulling it out,” which can be heard on the dash-cam footage before Yanez fired multiple shots.
Jackson conceded that “the officer may have had other options,” but concluded that Officer Yanez made a “reasonable judgment under the circumstances” and it was “a judgment that I could have made myself.”
Today, only one week after the jury acquitted Officer Yanez, the city of St. Anthony, Minnesota reached a $3 million with the mother of Philando Castile for the death of her son.