Driver’s manuals in Arizona will now include a section detailing “how not to get shot by police” during traffic stops, which is specifically aimed at armed drivers in the wake of the shooting that killed Philando Castile.
Democratic State Rep. Reginald Bolding told the Arizona Daily Star that he pushed for a rewrite of the state’s driver’s manual as a way to help educate drivers—especially those who are black and Hispanic, because he said records have shown that they are more likely to become victims of police shootings.
“When you look at what’s taken place across the country, you have seen a majority of individuals who are people of color that have had higher incidence of interactions with law-enforcement officers, particularly in shootings,” Bolding said. “Hopefully we can get to a place where that’s not the reality.”
One of the most recent incidents occurred in Minnesota when Philando Castile was shot and killed by a police officer during a traffic stop in July 2016. Castile followed basic protocol for individuals with concealed handgun licenses, and he informed the officer that he was armed and that he had a license.
As soon as Castile reached for his I.D., Officer Jeronimo Yanez opened fire on the vehicle—with Castile’s girlfriend in the passenger seat and her four-year-old daughter in the back seat—and he fired seven rounds. Castile did not receive immediate medical attention, and was pronounced dead 20 minutes after the shooting.
Despite the fact that the shooting garnered national media attention with both Dashcam video and a Facebook Live video recorded by Castile’s girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, documenting the aftermath inside the car, the officer was found not guilty on all counts.
Prior to the verdict, Yanez was facing federal criminal charges in November 2016. At the time, Ramsey County Attorney John Choi said Yanez was being charged, because it was clear that “Philando Castile was not resisting or fleeing. There was absolutely no criminal intent on his behalf.”
“No reasonable officer would have used deadly force under these circumstances,” Choi said during a press conference. “Philando Castile was not a threat.”
Choi also noted that not only was Castile not showing criminal intent, he following all of the regulations for an individual with a concealed weapon. Choi noted that Castile’s dead body was found with a gun in one pocket, and his concealed handgun license in another.
“He emphatically repeated that he was not pulling out the gun, only that he was lawfully carrying,” Choi said. “His dying words were in protest that he wasn’t reaching for his gun.”
However, instead of looking at what the police officer had done wrong in the shooting, Rep. Bolding looked for what Castile had done wrong. He told the Arizona Daily Star that he reached out to eight different police departments with questions about how Castile should have behaved differently.
“Some people said you immediately reach into your glove department to grab your license and registration,” Bolding said, noting that he received a variety of responses. “Others said to turn on the dome light. Others said to wait.”
As a result, Bolding pushed for a re-write to the state’s driver’s manual, in an attempt to teach drivers—especially those who are armed—how to interact with police. “No one should ever leave a traffic stop in a body bag,” he said.
The recommendations for drivers include things such as remaining in the vehicle after pulling over and parking the car, keeping seat belts fastened, and keeping hands in a visible location while motorists wait for officers to approach the vehicle.
“Other suggestions include: Lowering the windows, especially if they are tinted; At night, turning on any overhead passenger compartment lights; Informing the officer if the driver has a weapon or if there are any in the vehicle.”
While lawmakers in Tennessee, Virginia and Illinois have created new laws that require driver education courses to teach people how to act during traffic stops, the Arizona Daily Sun noted that “unlike the guidelines published in Arizona, none of the laws explicitly mentions what to do when armed motorists are stopped.”
Arizona, which is known as a “gun-friendly” state, allows residents to carry weapons without permits. However, the latest addition to the state’s driver’s manuals raises new questions about how much responsibility it is giving drivers, and how much accountability it is taking away from police.