When his nephew Philando was shot and killed by a police officer in the suburbs here four years ago, Clarence Castile made every effort to understand how something so horrific could have happened.
But when he saw video this week of an ultimately fatal encounter between Minneapolis police and George Floyd, Castile was overcome by that same sense of hopelessness that he felt when his sister’s son died — the same sick feeling he’s gotten every time another deadly police incident makes news.
“Is anything ever really going to change?” Castile wondered.
In the hours after Floyd’s death, as video circulated showing a white officer pinning the father of two to the pavement even as he protested that he couldn’t breathe, there were signs that change had come. Police Chief Medaria Arradondo swiftly fired four involved officers, identified by authorities Wednesday as Derek Chauvin, Thomas Lane, Tou Thao and J. Alexander Kueng. President Trump tweeted that he had asked the FBI, which is investigating the death, to expedite its work, adding that “Justice will be served!”
And as demands for accountability rang out from Floyd’s family, politicians on both sides of the aisle, celebrities and other high-profile figures, Mayor Jacob Frey (D) called on the county prosecutor to arrest the officer who used his knee to hold Floyd by the neck in a move that is not approved by the agency or the state licensing body.
Visibly emotional, Frey said precedent encouraged him “not to speak out. Not to act so quickly. And I’ve wrestled with more than anything else in the last 36 hours one fundamental question: Why is the man who killed George Floyd not in jail?”
Yet with several high-profile, fatal police encounters in recent years — along with efforts at reform — some activists couldn’t help but feel hopeless. Castile was one of them.
The task force had come up with dozens of recommendations, including required law enforcement training on de-escalation skills and an independent unit within the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension to investigate all uses of force by police officers that result in death or bodily injury. But in the wake of another tragic death, Castile said Wednesday, the list of proposals felt like just another piece of paper.