— Matthew Keys (@MatthewKeysLive) July 7, 2016
At the time that Rep. Tony Cornish, head of the House of Representative’s Public Safety Committee wrote an incendiary letter in the Star Tribune saying avoiding police shootings “isn’t complicated”, we pointed out that it quite often is.
Cornish’s advice, using thinly veiled racial stereotypes, was intended to dismiss legitimate claims of disparity in the system. It included “don’t be a thug”, “don’t stay out after 2 a.m.”, “don’t flap your jaws”, “don’t keep your hands in your pocket.”
In the NewsCut post in response, I added “don’t drive with a broken tail light” because that was the excuse an officer in South Carolina used to stop a man he later executed, shooting him in the back.
Coincidentally, driving with a broken tail light was reportedly the apparent transgression that caused Philando Castile to be by the side of the road on Wednesday evening, telling police he had a legal permit to carry a gun.
People who have watched a near inexhaustible number of people of color die at the hands of police have used any number of rationales to ignore the obvious disparity in the justice system.
Philando Castile’s killing presents a challenge to them and Rep. Cornish because he appears to have behaved exactly the way he should have, with the exception of driving with a broken light on a stretch of roadway known for being a police trap for ticky-tack traffic violations. And he still ended up dead.
Cornish was unwilling to concede that maybe there’s more to a growing chasm in the country, commenting on his Facebook page instead about Gov. Dayton’s depiction of the killing in Falcon Heights.
Officer involved shooting. Governor Dayton made an idiotic statement today, saying that he thought if these people would have been white, they would be alive today. I told myself not to comment on this case as far as what happened, just for this reason. Inciting feelings one way or the other, not even knowing what the total facts are yet.
Cornish doubled down by sending an email to all Republican legislators. “Shows you how far he will go to please certain people,” he wrote, according to KARE. People of color, in other words. That’s not inciteful at all in the current climate.
Dayton’s “unguarded” comments were ill-advised for a governor, although they did guarantee that case will need to be elevated to the U.S. Justice Department, something Dayton called for earlier in the day.
People might think the killing was racially motivated, and with good reason. But that cannot be a gubernatorial conclusion based on the facts of this specific case yet. It didn’t help that social media spread the name of a Saint Anthony police officer it said killed Castile. But it identified the wrong officer. It’s a dangerous time when we act on what we think and not what we know.
But by shifting the focus to Dayton, Cornish avoided an important fact revealed in the video of the aftermath: Castile was killed while still wearing his seat belt.
Cornish is also an an ex-cop who, perhaps, could explain how someone who took his simplistic advice on how not to be shot in a traffic stop still ends up dead? How a person in a seat belt gets shot four times? With a child in the back seat.
Assuming it’s not complicated, as he earlier insisted, that shouldn’t be that hard to answer.
The answer is: He shouldn’t.