On July 9 in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, Police officer Jeronimo Yaniz fired four shots that killed Philando Castile. Mr. Castile’s fiancé captured the incident on her cell phone.
Anyone who has seen the tape is an eyewitness that the shooting was unnecessary.
The officer pulled Castile’s car over for a broken tail light. He was reaching for his license and registration when Officer Yaniz killed him. The officer claimed he feared the gun for which Mr. Castile had a legal permit.
What happened in Falcon Heights, Minnesota in 2016 brought back to me the memory what happened in Belgium in 1914. My father was one and a half years old, and his father Hirsch Wolf Fuchs was 36. He was in Belgium when a German police officer stopped him and demanded identification. My grandfather reached into his pocket for his passport, but the policeman feared he was reaching for a gun and shot him dead.
As a result my father grew up without a father.
In both of these cases that occurred more than a century apart, hasty and unnecessary police action ripped families apart.
In the intervening years such tragedies have occurred countless times.
We have made so much progress in the technical and scientific arena in the last century. Our weapons, in particular, are so much more lethal than they were then.
Why then have we not made more progress in human understanding? Why do law officer so frequently overstep the bounds of reasonable force?
In particular, how can a policeman consider a man sitting in a car with his hands on the steering wheel a lethal threat to him when he is standing outside the car with his weapon drawn?
How is it possible that in so many cases where it is clear that officers overstepped, grand juries, and/or internal affairs investigators clear them of wrongdoing?
And why is it that police training does not take into account the impact of an officer whose finger was too quick to pull a trigger not just on an immediate family, but on generations to come as well.
4 thoughts on “Questions With No Answer”
Powerful post, Rabbi, and well-written as usual. I wonder if the cop who murdered your garndfather suffered any consequence.
Thank you, Medusa! I wish I had a sure answer to your question, but I do not. My hunch is that I doubt it.
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Thank for you for sharing this sad story. I weep for your grandmother and father and, of course, for your grandfather. I assume there were no consequences for the police who begin to see everyone as an enemy. I have a large shadow on police and realize my negativity is also part of the problem. My post about this will go out in a few hours and I’m frightened to share it. A sense that they’ll come knocking at the door. We’re teetering on the edge of the kind of darkness and chaos that enveloped Europe less than a century ago. It’s easy to keep my head down and stay out of the conflict, but we can’t do that now.
Yes, Elaine, thank you. I think you have said it perfectly: “We’re teetering on the edge …” I am frightened too. That is why I wrote my next essay.