False Narrative in Castile Investigation Leads to Racial Tension and Division

Source: Instagram @paintingsbypeda


An analysis of general media reports in the wake of the death of Philando Castile after he was apparently shot by police, with the aftermath streamed live on Facebook by his girlfriend Lavish “Diamond” Reynolds, shows some concerning reporting on behalf of journalists and state leaders, specifically Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton.

The shooting, along with another in Louisiana, made Minnesota the national focus and face of police-on-civilian crime. Leading to protests around the country, the one in Dallas left five officers dead and more injured. In St. Paul, dozens of officers were injured and more than 100 people were arrested when a Black Lives Matter protest blocked I-94 in St. Paul.

Looking at the first 24 hours of reporting, it appears that the few bits of information leading to the national media firestorm came directly from the live stream itself narrated by Castile’s girlfriend. During the stream, she states she believes the officer that allegedly shot her boyfriend was “Asian American.” It took a full two days before the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) officially announced that officer Jeronimo Yanez is Hispanic. 

FullSizeRenderThe officer who shot Philando Castile was not white. Yet, the images of anti-police rhetoric were clearly directed towards white cops. In one image an officer was on his knees having his throat slit by an African American. The conversation did not change.

People took to Twitter and Facebook to share their opinions of
officers around the country. The picture painted on social media was one of a racist cop killing an innocent black man. White, male police officers became the face of this apparent racism.

Governor Dayton made race the focus of his press conference addressing the shooting saying, “Would this have happened if those passengers and the driver were white? I don’t think it would’ve.” This implication that all cops were racist and murdered civilians before all the facts were investigated by the BCA provided validation for groups like Black Lives Matter and caused anger amongst the police community.  


Fillmore County Sheriff Tom Kaase in a Facebook post shared an email he sent to the Governor. He said:

Governor Dayton,

As Sheriff of Fillmore County, in our great state of Minnesota, I am compelled to respond to the remarks that you made concerning the tragic Falcon Heights shooting. Your remarks were reckless, irresponsible, and surely will fuel or incite greater problems. I know as our governor there is a need to respond, but it is also your responsibility to do so in an unbiased manner, waiting patiently until the investigation is completed and all the facts are known. This is a very tragic event for the Castile family, the officers involved, their community, and our state. Our state needs you as our governor, and other leaders, to help bring this to a calm, peaceful, just resolution and not as you have been doing. Thank you for your time and attention to my response.”  

Black Lives Matter leaders have repeatedly called out white police officers on their racial bias towards African Americans.

The Dallas Sniper specifically said that he wanted to shoot “white cops.” News outlets and social media have focused on the protests and the victim but have rarely spoken to the police officers.

Nearly a week after the shooting, members of government and media have left out the important fact that the police officer who shot Philando Castile was not white, but Hispanic.

If the narrative that white police officers are racist is fueling violent protests, why would state leaders not point out the fact that the officer accused was Hispanic even after the fact? Could it be simply that it doesn’t fit an agenda-driven narrative of “all white cops are racist”?

The Department of Justice released some interesting findings in 2015 that contradict that narrative.

This report from the Department of Justice (DoJ) found that African American and Hispanic Cops are 3.3 times more likely to fire a gun towards an African American suspect compared to their white counterparts.

A look at murder numbers also contradicts the agenda-driven media and BLM narrative. The Washington Post has begun to track and record all uses of fatal force by the police dating back to January of 2015. Since January 1, 2016, police have killed 512 Americans. Only 35 of those individuals were unarmed. Of the unarmed individuals, 18 or 54% of those were white. There were only 12 African Americans (34%) and just 5 Hispanics that were unarmed at the time. Overall, in the year of 2016, the data shows that out of the 512 individuals killed, only 2.34% of those shot and killed were unarmed African Americans.

A study announced yesterday from the National Bureau of Economic Research shows that while police officers are more biased when it comes to the use of force when it comes to using deadly force, bias plays no role in who is shot.

The study, conducted by Harvard Professor Roland G. Fryer, Jr, who is African American, concluded, “Even when officers report civilians have been compliant and no arrest was made, blacks are 21.3 (0.04) percent more likely to endure some form of force. Yet, on the most extreme use of force – officer-involved shootings – we are unable to detect any racial differences in either the raw data or when accounting for controls.”

Misconceptions and assumptions of basic information by Governor Dayton and community leaders has created a wider gap between police and citizen, but also black and white. It is important to note that the investigation into the shooting of Philando Castile has just begun. Until the investigation is complete, no one outside of the investigators and the officers will be able to determine if race played a role in the death of Philando Castile.


Preya Samsundar

Preya Samsundar was born and raised in Minneapolis, MN. She graduated from the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities this Spring with a B.A. in Political Science and Sociology, with a minor in Strategic Communications. Preya has previously worked on several State Campaign Races.