A jury last week found Minnesota police officer Jeronimo Yanez not guilty in the fatal shooting of Philando Castile.
According to news reports, counselors are being made available to students returning to the school where Castile was a popular cafeteria supervisor.
“Castile’s death last year was difficult for students at J.J. Montessori School in St. Paul. And, with the beginning of summer school classes Monday, the district has once again sent counselors to the school to deal with questions about the acquittal of the officer charged in his death,” reports The Associated Press.
“Sally Rafowicz has a daughter who attends J.J. Hill. Rafowicz tells the St. Paul Pioneer Press the children knew Castile as Mr. Phil and says he knew every student by name and would often give them ‘high fives’ in the lunch line.”
The story does not say what the counselors planned to say to the students about Mr. Phil’s death. We do not know how the students will respond to the counselors and what questions they will ask.
What we know is that Yanez shot Castile in a highly publicized incident caught on video last year and that he was acquitted of all charges related to the shooting, including second-degree manslaughter and that it all seemed to be preventable and unnecessary.
Castile was killed on July 6, 2016 after Yanez fired seven shots into his vehicle during a traffic stop from a broken tail light. His girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, and her 4-year-old daughter were also in the car at the time.
Reynolds broadcast a Facebook live video immediately after the shooting, in which she questioned the officer.
The portion of the video that we saw shows Castile doing what he was supposed to do when encountering police.
Castile told the officer that he had permit for a weapon and had one in his possession as required by gun safety possessions.
The officer ordered Castile to produce his driver’s license and then shot him as he reached for it. Yanez claimed he feared for his life.
Yanez acquittal, while deeply disturbing, is not a surprise.
Castile’s was killed the day after two white police officers shot to death Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, La., which was also caught on video. The acquittal in Castile killing comes a month after police officer Betty Jo Shelby was found not guilty for shooting an unarmed Black motorist to death in Tulsa, Okla. Shelby shot Terrence Crutcher, who was unarmed during the encounter.
The high-profile cases are among several across the United States in recent years that have increased debate about race and policing.
Immediately after the decision protesters gathered at the state capitol and Castile’s mother held a press conference in which she responded to the decision with outrage.
“My son loved this city, and this city killed my son. And a murderer gets away.”
Until there are consequences for the police killing of unarmed citizens they will continue unabated. In the absence of serious police reform and accountability more mothers will mourn the deaths of their children and the trust between local police and the communities they serve will continue to erode.