A Minnesota jury has found Police Officer Jeronimo Yanez not guilty of all counts for the shooting death of Philando Castile last year during a traffic stop. Yanez had been charged by prosecutor John Choi with second-degree manslaughter and dangerous discharge of a firearm, both felonies under Minnesota law. The municipality of St. Anthony, which had employed Yanez, announced that he “will not return to active duty” because “the public will be best served if Officer Yanez is no longer a police officer in our city.” Yanez will be offered a “voluntary separation agreement with terms to be negotiated,” according to Minnesota Public Radio.
Yanez shot Castile during a traffic stop in 2016 — he and his partner believed that Castile resembled a suspect wanted for the robbery of a local convenience store. When Yanez approached the vehicle, Castile announced that he had a Minnesota Permit to Carry a firearm, and that he was armed. Shortly afterwards, the situation went off the rails. Yanez and his partner claimed that Castile was moving to draw his firearm.Castile’s girlfriend and passenger in the car, Diamond Reynolds, however, said that Castile was reaching for a wallet per the officer’s request when he was shot. She began live-streaming from the scene after Castile was shot, which quickly went viral.
Reynolds’ video as well as the dash-cam footage from the police car appears to have been studied closely by the jury in this case; the footage of both was repeatedly requested during their five days of deliberations.
That video, plus the fact that Castile was black, and that Reynolds claimed that he was attempting to comply with the officer’s instructions, drew national attention to the case. Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton, a Democrat, opined that Castile would not have been shot if had had been white. Indeed, the prosecution alleged that Yanez, a Chicano, had “racially profiled” Castile.
The whereabouts of the gun became a major issue in the case as well. Yanez took the stand in his own defense, testified that Castile had begun to pull the gun out of his pants, enough so that he could see its slide. “I didn’t want to shoot Mr. Castile at all…. I thought I was going to die…. I had no other choice.”
Prosecutors alleged that Yanez hadn’t seen the gun. In Reynolds’ video, Castile can be heard saying, “I wasn’t reaching for it.” There was contradictory testimony between two eyewitnesses. Another police officer testified that the gun slid out of Castile’s shorts pocket as Castile was loaded onto a backboard. A paramedic claimed that an officer had to reach “deep” into Castile’s shorts pocket to remove the gun.
Castile’s mother was outraged by the decision.
“My son was murdered,” Valerie Castile, Philando’s mother, told reporters afterward, her voice choked with emotion. “Where on this planet do you tell the truth and be honest and still be murdered by the police in Minnesota … nowhere in the world do you die from being honest and telling the truth.”
The judicial system continues “to fail black people” she said. “When they get done with us, they’re coming for you, for you and all your interracial children. You all are next and you’ll be standing up here fighting for justice just as well as I am.”
UPDATE: Demonstrators plan to rally in support of Castile at 7:00pm CDT in front of the Minnesota Capitol, led by three groups: Justice Occupation for Philando, Twin Cities Coalition for Justice 4 Jamar and Communities United Against Police Brutality. A post on the Facebook event invitation read:
This verdict shows how the system is rigged against justice for victims of police terror. This was a prosecution team that usually works with police day in and day out; this system gave us a jury that was 83% white and 58% male, and included people who said they could never convict a cop. If we can’t count this system to just give us justice, we need to come together and make our own justice.
This summer might be longer and hotter than we thought…and I’m not talking about ‘global warming’.