Philando Castile is all over the news today. He was shot by a cop in Minnesota in what should have been a routine traffic stop. Castile had a gun on him–one he was licensed to carry concealed, but something went tragically wrong. Even though things were seemingly peaceful, and the Castile had informed the officer that he had a gun, the cop shot him multiple times.
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What happened? The details are a bit murky, but I think I know. Here’s what I’ve pieced together. Castile was asked for his license and registration. He reached for his wallet. Wallets are often tucked away neatly–pretty close to wear many wear a concealed holster. The cop, who’d likely seen sudden movements like this in the past, assumed he was going for the gun, and not for the wallet, and he shot him.
Let’s rule out for a moment the very difficult question of race. Castile was black, and the officer–what we can see of his hands in the video–was clearly not. Yet I would assume that this officer had seen other black people in the line of duty, and managed to let them live.
I think this whole thing stemmed from a sudden movement. And that cost Castile his life. So…
What to do?
Let me start by saying my assumption is that the gun you have is legal. You may be carrying concealed. You may be on the way to the pawn shop, or home from the range. You may be going hunting. I don’t care what it is, my advice is going to be the same. And it comes from practical experience.
Once, when I was 19, I was pulled over by a Georgia State Trooper. He was white. I’m white. Still, despite all we had in common, we had a Cool-Hand-Luke style failure to communicate. Our first interactions ended badly–he spread me out on the hood of my truck and wailed on the back of my head with his service pistol, which I remember was made by the fine folks at Smith & Wesson.
Why? I won’t bore you with the discursive details. Let’s just assume I wasn’t in the mood to listen to reason, and he felt compelled to draw his sidearm. After dragging me from my truck and slamming me onto the hood, he asked me if I had my driver’s license with me. I did. It was in my back pocket. So I reached my right hand back to grab it. That’s when he cracked me on the skull with his gun. The first time.
Did I deserve to get smacked around? Probably. Pistol whipped? No. Did I deserve to get shot? Hells no. But he didn’t shoot me. He hit me good, and I didn’t fight back, so he calmed down significantly.
I came away with a healthy respect of authority. No, not really. I hate authority. Always have.
Instead, I came away with this. I am very careful around cops. They deal with some serious shit every day, and some of them are solid citizens and upstanding men and women. I want to help make their lives easier. I’m a serious Second Amendment supporter and one who carries a gun everyday, and I expect the police to be there for me when I need them. So why not help them?
So here’s how I handle it. When I get pulled over, I put my hands at 10 and 2. I will roll down my window so I can talk to the cop. When they approach the car, I’ll greet them politely–even if the stop doesn’t seem justified.
One of the very first things I say is that I’ve got a concealed carry permit, and that I’m armed and I’ll tell them exactly where my gun(s) is (are). But I’m not moving my hands until I’m instructed to do so. Let the cop take over the conversation. Keep your hands in view. If he draws his gun, it is a stupid precaution–but I’ve seen it happen. Don’t soil yourself.
There are a lot of people who want to use this as a soapbox for their constitutional rights. Some won’t tell the cop because it is not the cop’s business. That’s true. I agree. Still, this isn’t the place to exercise your mouth.
Remember, if you don’t have a permit for a concealed weapon, your gun should be visible in your car–preferably in a case, or locked in the trunk.
The main thing here is to communicate, keep calm, and make deliberate movements when told to do so. That’s it.
No let’s go back to the Minnesota case. The early reports suggest that Castile reached for his wallet. This is why I think he’s dead. And I’m not coming out in defense of the cop who shot him. Yet we’ve seen so many actual criminals wait for that opportunistic moment to act, and then yank a gun out and shoot the cop at their window.
Well the cops have seen those videos, too. And this situation with Castile seems to have been misinterpreted, horrifically, by one cop–and there’s no going back on that.