From protests to traffic stops, we see it all the time: police and citizens coming face to face. And sometimes things go terribly wrong.
This week we’ve been looking at some controversial police shootings, trying to show you how with just a few small changes outcomes could have been so different. I’ve worked with a team of former law enforcement officers about what could’ve possibly prevented three deaths, and how to hopefully save other lives.
“We got pulled over for a busted taillight,” a woman is heard saying in the video chronicling the Minnesota shooting.
The video went viral in the shooting that happened in July. Philando Castile and his girlfriend were pulled over in a traffic stop. While Officer Geronimo Janez was checking out the two, he believed Castile might be a possible robbery suspect.
During the traffic stop, Castile told the officer he had a gun permit and reached for his wallet. Officer Yanez then shot Castile several times, killing him.
“I told him not to reach for it! I told him to get his hand out!” Yanez is heard saying in the video.
In our reenactment, we approach the car and see that the officer places himself in a compromising position, directly in front of the suspect.
“Once they state, ‘I’ve got a gun’, or ‘I’ve got a gun permit’, there shouldn’t be any movement whatsoever (from inside the car),” FBI special agent Oscar Westerfield says.
“Even though the man was reaching for his wallet, the cop doesn’t know that.”
“He was trying to get out his ID, and the officer just shot him in his arm,” the woman says in the video just after the shooting.
Shots were fired when Castillo reached for his wallet. Yanez later stated he thought the suspect was reaching for a gun.
“Regardless of how you feel, you’ve got to comply with what (the officer) says,” Westerfield advises.
In our next reenactment, a different approach is taken. We show you how to listen and how to follow the officer’s orders – hands up, where the officer can see them, and no fast movements or reaching for anything in the car.
This sort of abrupt action will make any officer think a threat is imminent.
“Could you put your hands on the dashboard, please?” an officer approaching a motorist requests.
“He put his hands where the police officer could see them, and that is extremely important,” Westerfield notes.
Our conclusions after reviewing these three cases? Each was uniquely preventable, and even slightly different reactions from officers and motorists could have saved lives.