It’s three and a half hours past midnight and I’m awake.
I’m not groggy. I’m not on some writer’s tear or some prayer binge or obsessively cleaning. I don’t want to be awake but I saw one cryptic tweet about a video and I clicked and prodded and poked until I saw the latest video.
A women, with a four year old child in the backseat, was live-streaming her boyfriend dieing. She was calmly explaining what had happened while a policeman’s shaking gun was still pointed at her boyfriend’s blood covered body.
Most of what was coming out of his mouth was the f-word, again and again and again. A police officer is trained to be calm, rational, in control of themselves as well as the situation. This cop’s hands were shaking and oh-I-screwed-up profanity was pouring out of his mouth. He wasn’t even thinking. Or he would’ve, at least, screamed for an ambulance. And then he realized she was recording and started screaming “I told him not to reach for it. I told him to get his hand off it” and she calmly corrects, “You told him to get his ID, sir, and his drivers license. Oh my god, please don’t tell me he’s dead.”
At the beginning of the video, she’s talking to her boyfriend and the live stream, “Stay with me. We got pulled over for a busted tail light in the back and he’s covered … they killed my boyfriend. He’s licensed to carry. He was trying to get out his ID and his wallet out his pocket and he let the officer know that he had a firearm and he was reaching for his wallet and the officer just shot him in his arm.”
At that point, the officer says “Ma’am, keep your hands where they are.” and she calmly replies “I am sir, no worries.” and then the officer yells the f-word.
She continues, “He just got his arm shot off. We got pulled over on Larpenteur.”
The office says “I told him not to reach for it! I told him to get his hand up” and she calmly corrects him “He had. You told him to get his ID, sir, his driver’s license. Please don’t tell me he’s dead.” and the officer yells the f-word again.
A moment later, the officer repeats “Keep your hands where they are” and she, again, responds “Yes I will, sir. I will keep my hands where they are. Please don’t tell me that he’s gone. Please don’t tell me that he’s gone. Please officer, don’t tell me that you just did this to him. You shot four bullets into him, sir. He was just getting his license and registration, sir.”
Shortly afterwards they order her out of the car and you can her child screaming and another officer hand-cuffs her with “You’re just being detained Mam until we can sort this out.”
As what is happening sinks in, she breaks down and starts going round and round in this prayer where she keeps asking G*d to save him that he’s never been in trouble, not in a gang, works for a school.
Several minutes more into the video and you still hear that cop screaming the f-word.
One person on Twitter checked the school’s website and, yes, he was the cafeteria supervisor at J.J. Hill Montessori Magnet School in St. Paul where they knew him as Phil. I imagine the kids calling him Mr. Phil. And what do you say to when a first grader asks “Where’s Mr. Phil?” Who’s going to tell them that the police killed Mr. Phil?
Phil’s full name was Philando Castile. He would’ve turned 33 tomorrow. Maybe he was going celebrated with his girlfriend, Lavisha Reynolds, and her 4-year-old daughter Diamond. Instead Diamond has already seen a murder from a few feet away.
And I’m up. It’s now more than four hours past midnight. Why am I still up? There have been four shootings like this in 72 hours. Four men dead. I’ve watched two men killed and what I see is “officers who are clearly emotional, fearful, & unfit to handle a weapon.” And, this isn’t news any more. This should not happen. And it isn’t news. And I’m up.
I’m up because this shouldn’t happen. I’m up because I learned the whole sordid multi-millenium back story from a professor born in Africa. I’m up because I shouldn’t need to be white to be safe. I’m up because I’m not sure that’s even true any more. I’m up because I’ve seen cops here in Colorado Springs who had some crew cut white guy’s face crammed into the pavement of a Target. I’m up because, even though I’m white, I’ve been pulled over a block from home for being the wrong color. I’m up because I had a cop tear my car apart because my hair was too long. I’m up because no one should die this way and everyone can.
I’m up because it’s not news and, it’s gotten so bad that my white privilege is no longer enough to guarantee I won’t be the next guy whose face gets planted in the pavement or shot by a cop.
I’m up because it’s wrong that I just had to watch a female black police officer defending this murder because 11, 12, 13 year old kids have guns. I’m up because I’ve looked into the faces of 11, 12, 13 year old kids who had already served serious time. I’m up because we think the answer to being afraid is to have a big gun and shoot first. I’m up because none of that justifies murdering an innocent man.
I’m up because Philando Castile and Alton Sterling should not be dead.
I once lived in Dallas. When I first moved there, someone was posing as a police officer (in full uniform driving what looked exactly like a squad car) and pulling women over and raping them. I knew before my daughter was born that when she started driving, I was going to get to warn her that if a police car tries to pull her over, she has to wait until she gets to a well lighted area with people around before she stops.
Tonight, I realized that it may be the only reason Lavisha Reynolds and Diamond are alive is because Lavisha started streaming what happened.
My daughter enters High School in a few months. When she starts going on dates, there will be another rule: if the police pull you over, start live streaming. And I’ll have to explain why.
And I’m up because I have to teach my daughter how to survive in a land of nightly extra-judicial killings.
No Dad should have have to do this.
In ten minutes, it’ll be five hours past midnight. And I’m up because Philandro’s parents are going to have to bury a son.
No Dad should have to do this.
No Mom should have to do this.
No one should have to do this.