I’m not a lawyer, but as a process guy I think I have a proper appreciation for the Boolean nature of how legal conclusions are arrived at and thresholds are met. At that point you just gotta identify the right Boolean questions and thresholds.
Shooting cop’s lawyer has already begun expressing the shooting in terms of its ‘reasonableness’. Ramsey County Attorney John Choi has been cautious in his public guidance. Such that he has talked, he’s spoken in terms of a ‘justifiable / unjustifiable’ Boolean, where ostensibly ‘reasonable’ cop actions and assumptions make for a ‘justifiable’ shooting with no prosecution, and ‘unreasonable’ ones make for an ‘unjustifiable’ shooting that begets a prosecution.
It’s a whole lot of Boolean, they just got to line up right. So… what’s the Boolean road to a prosecution? I think these are the questions and answers:
Is it reasonable for patrolmen to stop motorists based on robbery BOLOs?: The precedential answer to that is I think going to be yes, that it’s within the limits of police authority. May not like it, but they can do it.
Was it reasonable for this patrolman to stop this motorist based on his match to this BOLO?: There’s a photo of this Lauderdale gas station robbery suspect that’s circulated a bit since the shooting. Gas station suspect is very dark, with a dreadlock hairstyle. Mr. Castile was very dark with a dreadlock hairstyle. Listen to the scanner tape, that’s basically the basis of Ofc. Yanez’ observation of a match to the BOLO.
The conservative law and order bloc thinks this is slam dunk intuitive at this point, IE, it was a good stop. I think that’s obtuse, and a ‘white supremacist’ perspective (academically speaking say, ie, not KKK and robes, etc…). A match on mere skin tint and hair style is not a meaningful match on key individual appearance identification attributes, not in this country of many millions of dark black people with dreadlocks (…it’s a popular hair style). We don’t do it this way for white people.
So if you rightly believe that it’s not a meaningful match, then it’s basically ‘shot in the dark’ profiling by default. And an unreasonable basis for which to make roadside BOLO interdictions / detainments.
Was it reasonable for these officers to approach the car with all this readiness to fire their weapons? Perhaps, if officers were indeed conducting a ‘felony traffic stop’. But per Castile family’s lawyer, this half-assing that the officers were doing was not a ‘felony traffic stop’.
And ya know, figure that it wasn’t a ‘felony traffic stop’ because Philando had no real meaningful, granular appearance match to the aforementioned Lauderdale gas station robber.
Officer hears ‘concealed firearm’, perceives a furtive movement, but does not see firearm displayed. Is it justifiable to shoot? Can’t see there being a solid argument that’s gets the patrolman a pass here. If driver is not truly demonstrated a threat with a weapon, with that threat being a threshold of the weapon in hand, you can’t shoot him in the driver seat. Should beget a prosecution.
Officer hears ‘concealed firearm’, perceives a furtive movement, and sees firearm displayed. Is it justifiable to shoot? This is the best argument for the shooting cop. Defense argues he basically misheard motorist and felt safety was in danger when he saw gun, so he shot. ‘Felt safety was in danger’ is usually the ultimate ‘justifiable shooting justifier / get out of jail free card’ for cops. Unfalsifiable basically also. Mind you, the whole guns out fingers on the trigger readiness of this encounter comes because the officers negligently identified Philando as matching a BOLO. And then shooting him comes about because they can’t establish the presence of mind to hear him say “I am a permit holder and I have a firearm’. But if the prosecutor / grand jury can get past all that, yeah, they can choose to not indict based on ‘felt safety was in danger’. And the chances of this being the case are not that remote.