The Minneapolis Star-Tribune is reporting that St. Anthony, Minnesota Police Officer Jeronimo Yanez will face three criminal charges for the shooting death of Philando Castile during a traffic stop. Officer Yanez is being charged with a count of second-degree manslaughter as well as two felony counts of dangerous discharge of a firearm.
At a press conference today, Ramsey County Attorney John Choi announced that he had concluded that the “use of deadly force by Officer Yanez was not justified.” Choi went through the version of the story that he believed to be true, noting that Yanez and his partner believed that Castile resembled the description of a robbery suspect. After initial pleasantries and exchange of information, Castile–who was apparently licensed to carry a concealed firearm by Hennepin County, Minnesota–declared that he had a firearm on his person.
Yanez replied OK, then placed his hand on his gun, according to Choi.
Yanez said “Don’t reach for (the gun),” Choi said.
Castile responded, “I’m not pulling it out.”
Yanez screamed “Don’t pull it out,” then with his left hand reached inside the vehicle. Yanez withdrew his hand, then fired seven shots in rapid succession….
“His dying words were in protest that he wasn’t reaching for his gun,” Choi said. “There simply was no objective threat posed to Officer Yanez.”
Castile’s girlfriend and passenger in the car, Diamond Reynolds, streamed the last moments of his life via social media (which can be seen here; warning: GRAPHIC VIDEO, viewer discretion advised,) making the case a bit of a sensation and adding fuel to the fire of activists that protested what they considered to be police misconduct.
Although I am not familiar with the particulars of Minnesota criminal law, these cases hinge on whether a reasonable person in the shooter’s shoes would have reasonably perceived a threat to grievous bodily harm or death. It’s clear that Mr. Choi believes he can get a conviction out of this. It’s also clear that by seeking only a conviction on manslaughter, he may have put slightly more thought into this matter than prosecutors such as Florida’s Angela Corey and Maryland’s Marilyn Mosby, whose prosecutions of George Zimmerman and Baltimore officers Ceasar Goodson, Edward Nero, and William Porter, respectively, seemed to exemplify cases brought with insufficient evidence for purely political purposes.
That isn’t saying that politics didn’t enter into the equation for Choi, of course. Fueled by his girlfriend’s viral video, his death sparked the kind of Black Lives Matter protests that have become a regular feature in America, and we also saw a bit of a media campaign proclaiming that Castile, a school cafeteria worker, was a ‘role model’ for his community. Well, maybe he was and maybe he wasn’t. It’s easy to be a bit jaded after watching the legacy media trying (and failing) to put its thumb on the scale of public opinion in such a dumb manner on so many topics in the past year. Regardless, justice is supposed to be blind, and whether Mr. Castile had a license to carry or was a Mother-Teresa-in-training isn’t supposed to enter into the equation here.
For the sake of justice, I truly hope that Mr. Choi has more evidence up his sleeve than Ms. Corey or Ms. Mosby had.