The social media story is simple- Philando Castille was stopped for a traffic offense. He told the officer up-front that he had a CCW permit and was carrying a gun and the officer shot and killed him in front of his girlfriend and her small child. The girlfriend immediately live-cast the aftermath from her phone.

Mr. Castille was a law-abiding citizen and by all I have heard a decent guy who would never pull a gun on a police officer- or anyone else- inappropriately. The consensus was that this was apparently another incident of police over-reacting and shooting someone in a panic or ‘because he was black.’ But last Thursday it was announced that the officer who shot him was found ‘Not Guilty’ of all charges, and outrage resulted. The dash-cam footage has now been released, and I have watched this video a half-dozen times from different sources. The one that I feel gives you the best view of the incident is here- I have to say, this is some pretty raw stuff. Viewer discretion is definitely advised:

Combined Video

The video is ambiguous, but we clearly see the officer telling him not to reach for his gun more than once before drawing and shooting. I can offer no opinion here; I am not privy to all of the information the jury had in-hand and we have no way of knowing what the officer saw from his perspective. What we do know is that Mr.Castille did not inform the officer that he had a carry permit, and that it happened fast. We also know that a jury that was in possession of all of the available facts acquitted the officer of criminal wrong-doing. He may yet be subject to civil actions, but that won’t help Mr. Castille.

Without a doubt this was a horrific tragedy and a good man lost his life. I don’t know all of the facts, I don’t know what the jury knows that I don’t and I don’t know if the jury reached the right verdict. But I do know that there are lessons to be learned here- ones that could save your life if you legally carry a concealed firearm- or even if you don’t.

If you are pulled over by the police it is a good idea to have your ID, proof of insurance and Carry Permit already in your hand when the officer approaches, and keep your hands in plain sight. On top of the steering wheel is a good place to put them. Announce that you have a permit while handing your documents over before announcing that you are armed. Keep your hands in plain sight at all times and don’t initiate any movement except at the specific instructions of the officer. Do not move quickly or unexpectedly. Do exactly what you are told to do, do it when you are told to do it and do it slowly. If the officer says ‘stop’ freeze, and I mean right now.

Be polite and non-threatening. Stay calm and follow instructions, and whatever happens don’t resist. If they ask you to get out of the car do it. You do not need to consent to having your car searched; that’s up to you.

Maybe you feel the stop was unjustified. Maybe you feel the officer is being rude or obnoxious. Doesn’t matter and it doesn’t change a thing. You can count on this- if you make the officer fear for their life they will shoot you. Be calm, be non-confrontational and do what you are told. Be very, very clear on this: the place for justice- if it is to be had- is in the courts, not on the street.

Whatever your opinions on police over-reaching their authority, your personal liberties and how things ought to be is irrelevant in the moment. Feel free to air them in any and every appropriate venue. The middle of an interaction with someone who has a gun and will shoot you if you scare them enough is not such a venue.

Self defense is about survival, first and foremost. Not being shot will dramatically increase your chances of surviving. Be calm, keep your wits about you. Do everything in your power to make sure the officer feels safe and in control. We’ve seen what happens if you don’t.

Michael Tinker Pearce, 24 June 17

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