Officer Acquitted in Philando Castile Shooting Death

On July 6, 2016, Philando Castile was fatally shot by Jeronimo Yanez, a St. Anthony, Minnesota, police officer, after being pulled over in Falcon Heights, a suburb of St. Paul.

Jeronimo Yanez, the Minnesota police officer who fatally shot Philando Castile during a traffic stop was acquitted on all charges by a jury Friday.

Officer Jeronimo Yanez pulled Castile’s car over in Falcon Heights, later saying he thought Castile matched the description of a suspect in a robbery.

Yanez approached the car window and asked Castile for his license and proof of insurance, which the driver handed over, the complaint states. Castile also told Yanez he had a firearm on him, and seconds later, the officer told the driver not to pull out the gun. Castile said he was not taking out the gun, which Reynolds echoed. Yanez screamed, “Don’t pull it out!” and pulled his own gun out, firing seven shots at Castile, the complaint states.

The complaint then shifts to quoting from Reynolds’s Facebook video, saying that the footage “begins immediately after the shooting and while Yanez had his gun drawn and pointed toward the mortally wounded Castile.” Reynolds says in the footage that Castile was trying to get his ID out before the officer opened fire.

Yanez fired into the car, saying later he thought Castile was going for his gun, a claim Castile’s girlfriend, sitting in the seat next to him, disputed. She began streaming the aftermath of the shooting on Facebook Live.

Castile’s mother called his death a murder and tied the verdict to what she described as systemic racism in Minnesota.

“The system continues to fail black people, and it will continue to fail you all,” Valerie Castile said, her anger building. “My son loved this city and this city killed my son. And the murderer gets away. Are you kidding me right now?”

Prosecutors charged Yanez with second-degree manslaughter in November, a felony, saying that “no reasonable officer” would have used deadly force in the same situation. Yanez also was charged with two felony counts for intentionally discharging the gun.

Officials in St. Anthony, Minn., said Yanez will not return to the police department from leave 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,” the city said in a statement. “The terms of this agreement will be negotiated in the near future, so details are not available at this time. In the meantime, Officer Yanez will not return to active duty.”

When Yanez spoke to state investigators a day after the shooting, he told them he was “in fear for my life and my partner’s life.” Yanez told them that he thought Castile was reaching for the gun.

“I thought I was gonna die,” he told investigators, according to the complaint.

Prosecutors also charged Yanez with endangering the lives of Reynolds and her 4-year-old daughter, who was also riding in the car.

According to the complaint, one of Yanez’s bullets went through the driver’s seat and hit the back seat. Reynolds’s daughter was sitting in a car seat on the other side of the car. Another bullet hit the armrest between Castile and Reynolds, the complaint stated.

Yanez pulled over Castile after seeing him driving and saying he looked like a suspect in a convenience store robbery that had occurred days earlier. Authorities later said Castile was not a suspect in that robbery.