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Is Governor Dayton Bigoted Against Minnesotans?

Governor Mark Dayton prejudged the Jeronimo Yanez case hours after the fatal shooting of Philando Castile, at a time when virtually nothing was known about the facts. He said:

Would this have happened if the driver were white, if the passengers were white? I don’t think it would have.

Since then, Yanez has been indicted for manslaughter, and has been tried and acquitted by a unanimous jury that included two African-Americans. Yet Dayton still takes a prejudiced view of the case. Yesterday he met with African-American leaders and said, reacting to the recently-released dash cam video of the incident:

With stone-faced African-American leaders standing behind him, Gov. Mark Dayton said Wednesday that watching the newly released video of St. Anthony police officer Jeronimo Yanez killing motorist Philando Castile was horrifying, painful and shocking.

Dayton, a Democrat, said it was one of the “horrific reminders that everyone…is not treated equally in the state of Minnesota.”

In context, it was clear that Dayton’s point was that Castile was shot because of his race. But does the video really demonstrate that? Here it is; the encounter between Yanez and Castile begins after about a minute:

What does the video tell us about Castile’s race? Nothing. Most people shot by police officers are white, and no one watching the video would have reason to infer anything about the driver’s race.

Nor does the video show that the police officer, Jeronimo Yanez, acted wrongfully. The jury viewed the video several times and voted unanimously to acquit Yanez. If anything, the video corroborates Yanez’s testimony. It confirms that, as Yanez testified, Castile told him he had a gun and Yanez told Castile not to reach for it. The video confirms Yanez’s testimony that he believed Castile was reaching for his gun and beginning to draw it from his pocket, as Yanez twice says, “don’t pull it out,” the second time with obvious urgency.

The video doesn’t show what Castile was doing. It doesn’t confirm Yanez’s testimony that Castile was reaching for his gun and beginning to pull it from his pocket, but neither does it refute that testimony. On the contrary, Yanez’s obviously agitated response to whatever Castile was doing tends to confirm the account he testified to under oath.

So the video doesn’t tell us that Castile was shot because of his race, nor does it tell us that Yanez acted in any way wrongfully. But Dayton’s charge–“everyone…is not treated equally in the state of Minnesota”–goes far beyond the facts of this case. Dayton implies that the allegedly racist shooting of Philando Castile is typical of how some, presumably African-Americans, are treated in Minnesota. This is a slander against the very people who elected Dayton to office.

Mark Dayton thinks Minnesotans are bigots. But isn’t it Dayton himself, who leaped to the conclusion that racism was behind the shooting of Castile before he know anything about the facts, who falsely claimed that the dash cam video was evidence of racism on Jeronimo Yanez’s part, and who, finally, suggested that the shooting of Philando Castile typified unequal treatment of some minorities in Minnesota, who is bigoted against his fellow Minnesotans? That is what the evidence suggests.




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