U.S. Rep. Justin Amash is criticizing the outcome of the trial of the officer responsible for killing Philando Castile, a black man who was shot and killed in Minnesota last year.
“What happened to Philando Castile was horrific—a tragedy for his loved ones and an assault on every American’s right to keep and bear arms,” Amash said on Twitter.
Officer Jeronimo Yanez was found not guilty of second-degree manslaughter last week in the shooting death of Castile. Castile was killed last summer during a traffic stop in Minnesota after he was pulled over for a broken tail light on his car. He was 32 years old. Castile’s girlfriend and her 4-year-old daughter were also in the car.
Amash, a staunch advocate for criminal justice reform, linked an article condemning the jury’s verdict written by National Review’s David French.
French said the not guilty verdict was a miscarriage of justice and said that Castile was doing exactly what Yanez asked him to do:
Yanez asked for Castile’s license. Castile told him that he had a gun, and the officer – rather than asking for his carry permit, or asking where the gun was, or asking to see Castile’s hands – just says, “Don’t reach for it then.” At that point, Castile is operating under two commands. Get his license, and don’t reach for his gun. As Castile reaches for his license (following the officer’s orders), and he assures him that he’s not reaching for the gun (also following the officer’s orders). The entire encounter, he assures Yanez that he’s following Yanez’s instructions. He died anyway.
Yes, the evidence indicates that Yanez was afraid for his life… But Castile was following Yanez’s commands, and It’s simply false that the mere presence of a gun makes the encounter more dangerous for the police. It all depends on who possesses the gun. If he’s a concealed-carry permit-holder, then he’s in one of the most law-abiding demographics in America.
A number of gun rights proponents have been upset that the National Rifle Association has had little to say about the Castile case. Black gun owners in particular have expressed that they feel their Second Amendment rights aren’t as protected as other citizens.
This is not the first time Amash has expressed his views via social media regarding excessive police force. The congressman criticized the officer whose actions led to the death of Eric Garner on New York City sidewalk in 2014.
Amash is not only a leader of the conservative House Freedom Caucus but considered one of the primary players in the libertarian faction of the Republican Party, for which issues like criminal justice and police reform, and also Second Amendment advocacy, have long been primary focuses.
Similar to his tweet about the Castile tragedy, Amash has a reputation for defending the right to bear arms in ways that go beyond what other conservative Republicans even consider. Last July, Amash vigorously opposed a bill that was designed to prevent terrorists from purchasing firearms on the grounds that it infringed on four amendments to the Constitution contained in the Bill of Rights, including the Second.
Rep. Amash is also one of the co-founders of the Second Amendment Caucus in the House led by frequent Republican political ally Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky.