Police Abuse

Philando Castile's Mother to Get $3 Million From City That Hired Cop Who Killed Him

Do settlement amounts reflect police culpability in deaths?

|

St. Anthony Police Department
Castile family

The mother of Philando Castile, who was shot dead by St. Anthony, Minnesota, police officer Jeronimo Yanez last summer, will receive $3 million under a settlement agreement announced yesterday. The settlement, which will be covered by the city's liability insurance, avoids a federal civil rights lawsuit that Valerie Castile had planned to bring. Here is how the payment compares to settlements in other recent cases where people died at the hands of police or after being arrested:

Michael Brown: $1.5 million

Sandra Bland: $1.9 million

Zachary Hammond: $2.2 million

Philando Castile: $3 million

Samuel DuBose: $4.9 million

Eric Garner: $5.9 million

Danroy Henry Jr.: $6 million

Tamir Rice: $6 million

Freddie Gray: $6.4 million

Walter Scott: $6.5 million

The variation in payments is not a perfect indicator of police culpability (real or perceived) by any means, but there does seem to be a rough correspondence.

The 2014 death of Michael Brown, an 18-year-old black man, was one of the main motivating events behind the Black Lives Matter movement. But no state or federal charges were filed against Darren Wilson, the Ferguson, Missouri, officer who shot Brown, and a Justice Department investigation concluded that Wilson's self-defense claim was credible.

Sandra Bland, a 28-year-old black woman, died in jail, apparently by her own hand. But she would not have been in jail if Texas State Trooper Brian Encinia hadn't senselessly escalated a 2015 traffic stop for changing lanes without signaling. Encinia was fired and charged with falsifying his report on the incident.

Zachary Hammond, a 19-year-old white man, was shot and killed in 2015 by Lt. Mark Tiller of the Seneca, South Carolina, police department. No charges were filed against Tiller, who claimed (not very credibly) to fear that Hammond was about to run him over as he sped away from a penny-ante drug sting aimed at his date.

Although Yanez claimed Castile, a 32-year-old black man, was drawing a gun on him during a traffic stop for a nonfunctional brake light, all the evidence (aside from Yanez's testimony) suggested that Castile, who had calmly informed Yanez that he had a concealed weapon (for which he had a permit), was actually trying to retrieve his driver's license from his wallet. A state jury acquitted Yanez of second-degree manslaughter on June 16.

Samuel DuBose was shot to death in 2015 by University of Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing after he started his car during a traffic stop based on a missing front license plate. Although Tensing claimed he was being dragged by the car, bodycam footage indicated otherwise. An indictment for murder and voluntary manslaughter was followed by two mistrials, both due to deadlocked juries.

Eric Garner died in 2014 after he was tackled by New York City police who were arresting him for selling untaxed cigarettes. One officer, Daniel Pantaleo, used what looked like an unauthorized chokehold on Garner, who repeatedly complained that he could not breathe. A local grand jury declined to indict Pantaleo.

Credit: Meredith Bragg | Reason

Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old black boy, was shot and killed in 2014 by Cleveland police officer Timothy Loehmann, who mistook his Airsoft pellet pistol for a real firearm. A local grand jury declined to indict Loehmann or his partner, Frank Garmback, although Loehmann was fired for failing to disclose that he had been dismissed from a previous police position because of emotional instability.

Danroy Henry Jr., a 20-year-old black college student and football player, was shot and killed in 2010 by Pleasantville, New York, police officer Aaron Hess, who for reasons that are unclear stepped into the path of a car that Henry was driving and then treated him as a deadly threat. Hess did not face state or federal charges, although a Justice Department investigation concluded that Henry probably had his foot on the brake when his car hit Hess.

Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man, died in 2015 from a neck injury he suffered after being arrested by Baltimore police for possessing an allegedly illegal knife. Six officers faced state charges in connection with his death. One case ended in a mistrial and three officers were acquitted, after which the charges against the remaining two officers were dropped.

Walter Scott, a 50-year-old black man, was shot in the back by North Charleston, South Carolina, police officer Michael Slager while fleeing a 2015 traffic stop based on a nonfunctioning brake light. Slager was immediately dismissed. After a state jury failed to reach a verdict, Slager pleaded guilty to federal civil rights charges.

Except for the deaths of Michael Brown and Danroy Henry, all of these incidents were at least partly captured by some sort of camera. It makes sense that the largest settlement came in the Walter Scott case, where a damning bystander video showed that the officer was clearly not in danger at the time of the shooting. The facts were so unfavorable to Slager that he eventually pleaded guilty, making this the only case on the list to produce a conviction. It likewise makes sense that the smallest settlement was related to the death of Michael Brown, who scuffled with Wilson and seemed to pose a real threat.

Generally speaking, stronger self-defense claims seem to be associated with lower settlements. They also make criminal charges less likely, which in turn may play a role in settlement negotiations. The Danroy Henry settlement seems like an outlier, since Hess was indisputably in danger at the moment of the shooting, albeit a danger that he himself created. Like Tiller, who killed Zachary Hammond, Hess put himself in the path of a moving car.

NEXT: Same-sex marriage after Obergefell

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Do settlement amounts reflect police culpability in deaths?

    Let’s say the amounts reflect the inverse confidence the cities posit on the reputation of their street executioners.

    1. Yeah, but look at that gender gap.

      1. It’s not a real gap, if you look at the data female cops are killing 79% of the dogs as their male counterparts.

        1. Is that a typo or an attempt at some clever word play?

    2. Seems to me, the amounts reflect the amount of time captured on video. Freddie Gray and Walter Scott seem to be the only two incidents that where captured on video by private citizens and they received the most. The Michael Brown incident wasn’t captured on any video whatsoever, and he received the least. Then we have varying degrees of dash-cam / body-cam footage for everyone in between.

      1. Freddie Gray and Walter Scott seem to be the only two incidents that where captured on video by private citizens and they received the most.

        So clearly if cities want to avoid having to pay increased insurance premiums from having to pay large settlements, the solution is clear: ban the filming of police officers. /sarc

      2. I don’t think there was any video of Freddie Gray, and there was indeed video of Eric Garner by a private citizen.

        1. Whoops, I got Grey and Garner mixed up. But, there are quite a few private videos of Grey’s initial arrest as well as some video shot along the route where the cops took him out of the van and put him back in for some reason.

      3. Didn’t Michael Brown try and kill that cop? Why the fuck would they pay off his family?

        1. That’s the story the cop told. But, I personally don’t buy it. And, it doesn’t look like their city council did either, do you?

          1. Your right. The bullet hole inside the car on the drivers side was put in after.

            Jesus, are you serious?

  2. The settlement, which will be covered by the city’s liability insurance, avoids a federal civil rights lawsuit that Valerie Castile had planned to bring.

    So, this settlement violates Philander Castile’s civil rights, right? RIGHT?!

    1. Hmm…on the one hand I want to say that a Civil Rights lawsuit should happen but on the other receiving a few million dollars is a strong motivator to just let the government continue on as planned.

      Rock and a hard place, I imagine.

  3. Sounds like insurance companies should demand higher premiums where police do a poor job destroying video evidence.

  4. Being related to a black man is like buying the world’s worst lottery ticket.

    1. Like The Box only more compellingly written and better acted.

  5. The micro is the Castile family should have held out for more, imo. The macro is the Connor v. Graham standard needs to be re-examined, but this would require a victim of alleged excessive (or lethal) police force under ambiguous circumstances to pursue justice through the federal courts.

    The standard now is stacked so disproportionately towards the state that a civilian stands virtually no chance of securing a criminal conviction against a police officer.

    1. Even if the odds were more even, juries still tend to favor acquittal in police shooting cases because of fear of crime waves or because people are accustomed to respect or defer to authority.

      Thank you!

      1. “Even if the odds were more even, juries still tend to favor acquittal in police shooting cases because of fear of crime waves or because people are accustomed to respect or defer to authority.”

        Possibly. At the same time it’s reasonable as in the case of Walter Scott (admittedly a different scenario) that when there’s clear or plausible evidence of police misconduct those same juries have an interest to see civilian’s rights protected.

        1. I’m not sure I’d use the Scott case as a good example of that. The trial ended in a mistrial when it should have been a no-brainer guilty verdict. I credit the members of the jury who didn’t budge and vote not guilty, but it’s still crazy that someone on the jury thought he wasn’t guilty. He got convicted by pleading guilty to federal charges IIRC.

          1. “I’m not sure I’d use the Scott case as a good example of that.”

            Indeed, it’s not apples to apples but the fact that Officer Slager was still given the legal benefit of ‘objective reasonableness’ even with the video suggests how a police officer can use the ‘totality of circumstances’ defense as to why and how he or she decided to use lethal force.

            Slager was indicted on 1st degree murder but his plea arrangement basically accepted responsibility for his act while the state waived some secondary charges and agreed to sentence him according to the guidelines for 2nd degree murder.

  6. The city (read: the taxpayers) shouldn’t be paying for it. The St. Anthony PD pension fund should. If there’s a shortfall, then garnish the officer’s wages.

    1. Good idea, but I bet the coffers of that pension fund are closed tighter than a gnat’s ass. On the other hand, maybe the taxpayers should feel the sting in order to be motivated to demand change. If moral outrage won’t do it, may be increased hits to the pocketbook will. But then again, you know the city will just borrow to cover this, so the sting won’t be felt by this generation.

      1. Maybe the settlements should be much bigger and in proportion to the population of the municipality. A few grand extra on everyone’s tax bills might catch people’s attention.

      2. Very true about citizens not watching the purse anymore. When it is old hat the politicians are spendthrift scum, citizens don’t even pay attention to expenditures like these anymore, at least in decent sized towns.

        Another obvious sign that the state has won, small government is hopeless, and the zombies will not be defeated. Too many of them all.

    2. Officers should be required to have insurance for these sort of things. Of course, that runs the risk of the city essentially just increasing the salaries enough to offset premiums.

    3. The money should come out of the police budget.

  7. So what you’re saying is that I need to get shot by the police?

    1. No, we’re saying that you need to marry SIV and then he gets shot by the police.

        1. I hear he has killer chicken recipe, basted in his own secret sauce.

            1. I guess that depends on how you feel about grapey bleachy flavor.

      1. I like this one. I got pulled over and shot for buying my spring plants at home depot.

        1. Those ficus plants look exactly like marijuana to the finally trained eye of one of out Heroes in Blue.

          I would have linked to a picture of a joke pot identification chart for cops like that gun identification chart for journalists meme but I couldn’t find one. Either my google-fu is weak today or the internet has seriously let me down.

      2. Do those field tests ever yield negative results?

  8. “….all the evidence (aside from Yanez’s testimony) suggested that Castile, who had calmly informed Yanez that he had a concealed weapon (for which he had a permit), was actually trying to retrieve his driver’s license from his wallet”.

    What would “all the evidence” be?

    1. Well, for starters, there’s the fact that it makes zero sense for someone planning to pull a gun on a cop to tell the cop that they have a firearm on them. As well as the fact that the gun was firmly in his pocket when he was killed, despite the fact that he has several seconds to grab it if that is actually what he was trying to do. And his girlfriend’s testimony, as well as Castile’s voice on camera saying he wasn’t reaching for it. You can say they’re biased, but so is Yanez.

    2. There was an adult witness and a child in the car. There are recordings and dashcam video. There is the fact that Castile’s gun was still in his pocket after he was dead.

      The cop has a lot more incentive to lie than the woman in the car.

    3. Also Yanez had just asked Castile to produce his driver’s license. And when Yanez yelled for Castile to “don’t pull it (the gun) out” both Castile and his girlfriend said on tape that “he’s not pulling it (the gun) out”.

      Plus there’s the whole lack of motive. This guy seemed to have his life together and had his family in the car with him. That’s all circumstantial, I know, but it adds up.

  9. Luckily this happened in Minnesota, so it will all be gotten back in taxes.

    1. Can’t they just harvest all of Al Franken’s organs to pay for it? Talk about a win-win for everyone.

      1. Well, all but two of them. Those two are a lose-lose for everybody.

  10. Do settlement amounts reflect police culpability in deaths?

    No. They reflect the city’s preference to pay someone to go away, rather than to see a lawsuit to the end, and face the publicity and costs associated. It takes into account the what if I win, and what if I lose scenarios, and the result is a compromise.

    Several of these, such as the Michael Brown case should make the answer to Sullum’s question clear. The city paid out, even though the officer was acting reasonably and in self-defense by all accounts. Which indicates that culpability wasn’t the issue, but rather a jury for a civil case may rule based on their emotions rather than the facts of the case combined with the fact that fighting the legal battle to the bitter end will be more expensive than paying plaintiffs to go away..

  11. I don’t understand the need to let so many people hit the death lottery. Some of these the governments and insurances should spend 10 times the amount to fight paying them to stop this constant litigation. Most cases end up being decided against the criminals and yet the family still gets a settlement. GEEZE!!

  12. The DOJ just didn’t find any civil rights violations. According to their report from where Brown turned back towards Wilson he made it 22ft. The audio of the shots is 3.5 seconds long. That means Brown was only moving at 4 mph not charging full speed as Wilson testilied.

    1. You obviously don’t understand acceleration. You can’t just divide 22 ft by 3.5 seconds. When you start to run, your starting speed is slower than your ending speed.

  13. The Chief of the St. Anthony MN PD was told prior to this incident that he had a training problem within his department, and ignored the warning. Virtually everything he was warned about came to pass in this incident. I would imagine that might have had something to do with the quick settlement.

  14. Garner was not being arrested for selling cigarettes. He was being arrested for “contempt of cop” for telling the police to stop harassing him. That NYPD lie needs to die.

  15. Will the mother share the money with the girlfriend who was there in the car and made the famous live-streamed video? She really should, but I guess nothing in the law requires it.

  16. It would be a very good idea to give body cameras to the police to find out what happened. It can’t be too expensive.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.