Valerie Castile: Change in driver's manual makes traffic stops safer when motorists carry guns

A woman holds a microphone in front of a mural.
Valerie Castile speaks to a crowd on the fourth anniversary of the killing of her son, Philando Castile, in St. Anthony, Minn., on Monday. Public safety officials have updated the state's driver's manual to give motorists who are legally carrying guns some guidance on what to do if stopped by police. Valerie Castile pushed for the changes.
Evan Frost | MPR News

Updated: 7:48 p.m.

Motorists and police will have new guidance that may help avoid deadly shootings like the one that killed Philando Castile four years ago Monday.

His mother, Valerie Castile pushed for the changes after her son was fatally shot by a St. Anthony police officer during a traffic stop in a St. Paul suburb seconds after he told the officer he had a firearm in his vehicle.

Castile said the update to the Minnesota Driver’s Manual could save lives.

“It's all about getting these standards and understandings together and meet at some common ground,” she said. “Because at the end of the day, we all want to go home."

The guidance says drivers stopped by police should keep their hands on the steering wheel and let officers know if they have a firearm in the vehicle and where the weapon is located. Police must tell drivers why they are being stopped and check drivers licenses. Law enforcement will be ordered to follow and trained on the procedures, officials said.

Philando Castile was shot in July 2016 after he told former St. Anthony police officer Jeronimo Yanez he had a gun. The officer also was told he had a permit to carry. Yanez shot the school worker as Castile moved his hand toward his wallet. In June 2017, a jury acquitted Yanez of all charges, including manslaughter.

State Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington said he wants to make deadly force incidents “as rare as possible.” Harrington said the drivers manual change was one of 28 recommendations by a commission focused on reducing killings by police. The commission included Valerie Castile and state Attorney General Keith Ellison.

Public Safety Comissioner John Harrington on the new guidance.
by Tom Crann

Harrington said law enforcement needs repeated training.

"I want them to be the masters of using time and distance to avoid deadly force encounters,” he said. “I can't just show this to them one time and hope that they get it.”

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