The Minnesota police officer who shot and killed Philando Castile during a traffic stop last week took a training course that has attracted criticism for its approach, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported.
Records show that Jeronimo Yanez attended the 20-hour “Bulletproof Warrior” seminar in May 2014. Calibre Press, which hosts the course, recently changed the name of it to “Interaction and Influence” after complaints from local departments.
“We had different calls from some agencies literally saying the word ‘warrior’ has such a bad connotation we’re not comfortable sending people there,” said the company’s co-owner Jim Glennon, who also leads the seminar.
Yanez has come under criticism himself for his fatal encounter with Castile, the aftermath of which was captured on camera by the victim’s girlfriend, Lavish Reynolds. The officer’s attorney has said that he fired on Castile because of “the presence of a gun.”
“Everybody’s going after this kid,” Glennon said of Yanez. “Nobody should be judging what he did yet without the evidence.”
According to the Star-Tribune, Yanez also took a Calibre seminar called “Street Survival” in 2013, as well as a 20-hour course entitled “Officer Survival” from another company in 2012. By comparison, he attended a four-hour “de-escalation” seminar just this past May.
But Calibre’s approach in general has drawn criticism from the executive director of the International Association of Directors of Law Enforcement Standards and Training, Michael Becar, who said he has attended their seminars in the past.
“Everything they were doing made the police officers very paranoid,” he said. “At some point they wouldn’t even stop a car without three backups.”
A spokesperson for the Houston Police Department, Kese Smith, said that officers were free to attend the company’s courses, but had to pay their own way to do so.
“Some of their instruction is not what we instruct,” Smith said.
While the seminar Yanez attended was hosted by the St. Paul Police Department, the Star-Tribune reported that a non-officer was also there in 47-year-old electrician William Czech, who said he took the course because of “incidents involving a mentally ill family member.” The second day of the seminar, Czech said, participants watched footage of shootouts between police and civilians.
“Every time a video came up where the officer hesitated, [Glennon] would stop and he would say, ‘This is a point where there should have been a reaction, he should have engaged,'” Czech recalled.
Glennon responded by calling that account “totally inaccurate,” saying that the course was designed to teach officers how to switch “from guardian mode to warrior mode” when needed.
“Our mission is to save everyone’s lives,” said the company’s CEO Lisa Gitchell. “We go to bed every night knowing that we did the right thing. We train officers to treat people with dignity and respect.”