After five days of deliberations, a jury has acquitted the Minnesota police officer, Jeronimo Yanez, of all charges in shooting death of Philando Castile. Officer Yanez, an officer for the suburb of St. Anthony, had been charged with second-degree manslaughter and endangering safety by discharging a firearm in the shooting. Yanez and the 12 jurors were quickly led out of the courtroom after the verdict was announced.
In July 2016, Castile was pulled over for a broken tail light and was shot within 62 seconds of his encounter with Officer Yanez. Castile’s girlfriend Diamond Reynolds, who was in the passenger seat, began Facebook livestreaming less than a minute after the shooting as her 4 year old daughter hid in the backseat and Castile slumped over dying.
Dash cam footage shows Officer Yanez approach the vehicle and exchange greetings with Castile and informing him of a brake light problem. He asks for Castile’s driver’s license and proof of insurance. Castile who had a concealed carry license hands the officer his insurance card and says “Sir, I have to tell you that I do have a firearm on me.” Officer Yanez replies, “Okay” and places his right hand on the holster of his gun and says “Okay, don’t reach for it.” Castile responds “I’m not pulling it out,” as Officer Yanez continues to yell “Don’t pull it out.” Yanez pulled his gun and fired seven shots in the direction of Castile. Reynolds yelled, “You just killed my boyfriend!” Castile moaned and said, “I wasn’t reaching for it”, which were his last words.
Reynolds started live-streaming onto Facebook about 40 seconds after the last shot. In a shaky voice she explains that the officer has just killed her boyfriend and that he was licensed to carry. Yanez can be heard shouting “I told him not to reach for it. I told him to get his hand off of it.” Reynolds replies “He had, you told him to get his ID, sir, and his driver’s license. Oh my God. Please don’t tell me he’s dead.”
Officer Yanez’s recollection of the events was that Castile told him he had a gun at the same time he reached down between his right leg and the center console of the vehicle. Yanez stated “He put his hand around something,” and said Castile’s hand took a C-shape, “like putting my hand up to the butt of the gun.” Yanez said he then lost view of Castile’s hand. “I know he had an object and it was dark,” he said. “And he was pulling it out with his right hand. And as he was pulling it out, a million things started going through my head. And I thought I was gonna die.” Yanez said he thought Castile had the gun in his right hand and he had “no option” but to shoot.
Officials in St. Anthony, Minn., released a statement saying that Yanez will not return to the police department after the trial. They said they have decided “the public will be best served if Officer Yanez is no longer a police officer in our city.” “The city intends to offer Officer Yanez a voluntary separation agreement to help him transition to another career other than being a St. Anthony officer.”
Shortly after the verdict was announced, several hundred protesters amassed around the steps of the state Capitol in St. Paul. Police said about 500 activists later moved to Interstate 94, one of the main highways in the Twin Cities area. A few dozen people briefly moved onto the road itself while facing police in riot gear, but most of the protesters soon dispersed.