What Happened to Philando Castile?
Let's discuss this soberly.
What We Think We Know: That Philando Castile was reaching for his concealed carry permit when a police officer -- who had pulled over him and his girlfriend Lavish Reynolds (who was driving the car) for a busted taillight -- shot him three times.
What We Don't Know: What actually happened before Castile was shot.
What We Saw on the Video: Quite a lot. I'll list what I think are the important points.
• The police officer kept himself a safe distance from the car, weapon still drawn and pointed at Castile.
• Castile was, at least from Reynolds' point of view from the driver's seat, bleeding out.
• Reynolds is one impressive woman. During the worst of the shooting, watching her boyfriend die during a routine traffic stop, she kept her cool.
• The police officer, shouting at a dying man, did not appear to have kept his cool.
Let me tell you what impressed me most about Lavish Reynolds, and what indicates to me that Castile was probably behaving lawfully, and that the officer badly misread Castile's intent. And I'll reiterate that this is only a preliminary impression based on Reynolds' reaction.
If you've taken any kind of concealed carry safety course, you have been instructed to refer to your pistol as a "firearm" and never a "weapon" or "gun." "Weapon" contains an implied threat that you intend to use it as such. "Gun" is police code, as it were, for a bad guy's weapon -- as in "GUN! Everybody duck and start shooting!"
When you are legally carrying, you refer to your pistol as a "firearm" so as not to alarm the police when you inform them that you are carrying, and to indicate that you have received proper training. The word "firearm" is supposed to help put the officer at ease in a tense situation.
Throughout the video, Reynolds refers to Castile's pistol as a firearm. That might be a small detail, but it is a compelling one. Reynolds kept her calm and used the proper language in a life and death situation. I'm inclined to believe then that she has had some kind of firearms training. When she says at the start of the video that "He's licensed to carry, he was trying to get out his ID," I'm inclined to believe that, too.
What the video doesn't show is how Castile was pulling out his license. Was he as cool and calm as Reynolds? Was he moving quickly? Had he used the word "gun" or "weapon" when telling the police officer that he was carrying? Was he following instructions? Were those instructions lawful?
We just don't know, but there are some things we may reasonably conjecture -- subject, of course, to whatever new evidence may come out later.