By Amala Dasarathi
On Wednesday, Philando Castile, a black cafeteria supervisor in a high school, was shot dead by a police officer when he was stopped for a broken taillight, in Falcon Heights, Minnesota. Diamond (Lavish) Reynolds, his fiancé, uploaded a video on Facebook, of what happened immediately after the shooting, including Castile’s body covered in blood and her conversation with the police officers. In the video, which went viral, Reynolds was calm and almost matter-of-fact. She did not cry or scream, and was polite with the officers who had just shot her fiancée dead as her child sat next to her in the backseat of the car.
Castile was shot five times as he reached into his back pocket for his driving license. He declared to the police that he had firearms on him, for which he had a permit, while reaching for his ID. He had no violent criminal record. Many people have come out in solidarity with Black Lives Matter, but on June 8th, police officers were shot by snipers during the Black Lives Matter protest in Dallas.
People who commented on the video on Facebook wondered how Reynolds maintained such an exceptionally calm composure in spite of witnessing brutal violence. According to trauma experts, many victims respond in such a manner, as trauma triggers certain pain-regulating hormones which make victims appear relaxed, and almost apathetic. People on social media, however, view her demeanour as active defence. “Lavish Reynolds managed to be calm before her dying boyfriend bc if she panics the officer might kill her too, shows much strength,” said a Tweet.
Reynolds described Castile as a ‘very, very sweet’ and ‘laidback’ person, who was not a member of any gangs and just wanted to look after his family. Parents of the school in which Castile worked as cafeteria supervisor were deeply saddened by the incident, too. “We entrusted our children to him during the school day, and our children loved him,” a parent told NBC news. “When I saw the news this morning and told my children about it, they were sad, confused and immediately started sharing with me how great Phil was,” he said.
Medical examiners have confirmed that his death was the result of multiple gunshot wounds. The police officer who shot Castile dead has been identified and put on administrative leave, as per procedure.
Both Obama and the mayor of Minnesota have acknowledged that this is a crime of race. “Would this have happened if those passengers, the driver were white? I don’t think it would have,” said the Mayor. He has also promised that a thorough investigation into the matter will take place.
Earlier this week, another black man, Alton Sterling, was shot dead in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. As Castile’s mother said, “He was just black in the wrong place.”