Cop Who Fatally Shot Philando Castile Hit with Charges

by Aaron Rupar –

The charges are the first brought in connection with an officer-involved death in Minnesota this century.

philando castile

Philando Castile

St. Anthony Police Officer Jeronimo Yanez has been charged with second-degree manslaughter and intentional discharge of a dangerous weapon for fatally shooting Philando Castile during a July 6 traffic stop in Falcon Heights, Minnesota.

“Based upon our thorough and exhaustive review of the facts, I have come to the conclusion that there simply was no justification for the use of deadly force by Officer Yanez in this case,” Ramsey County Attorney John Choi said in a statement released Wednesday. “No reasonable officer who knew, saw, and heard what Officer Yanez did at the time would have used deadly force under these circumstances.”

The immediate aftermath of the shooting was steamed live on Facebook by Castile’s girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, while her 4-year-old daughter sat in the backseat of the vehicle.

According to the criminal complaint, Yanez decided to pull Castile over because his “wide set nose” led him to believe the 32-year-old might have been a suspect in a robbery that occurred in the area the day before. After he was pulled over, Castile told Yanez, “Sir, I have to tell you that I do have a firearm on me.”

Here’s what happened next, via the complaint’s moment-by-moment account of squad car audio and video recordings of the stop (the Officer Joseph Kauser mentioned below served as Yanez’s backup):

The complaint indicates Castile was reaching for his wallet when Yanez opened fire. Yanez told investigators he thought Castile was reaching for him gun. Officer Kauser told investigators he was “absolutely” surprised when Yanez opened fire.

“According to Jeffrey J. Noble, an expert on police procedure retained by the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office, the totality of the circumstances indicate that Yanez’[s] use of deadly force against Castile during the July 6 traffic stop was not necessary, was objectively unreasonable and was inconsistent with generally accepted police practices,” the complaint concludes. “In addition, under the same circumstances, Yanez’s discharge of his firearm seven times into a vehicle in very close proximity to and towards Reynolds and her four-year-old daughter endangered their safety.”

The charges against Yanez are unprecedented. According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, before Wednesday, no officer had been charged in connection with the more than 150 officer-involved deaths in Minnesota since 2000.

One of those deaths was Jamar Clark, a 24-year-old African-American who was shot to death by Minneapolis cops on November 15, 2015. Following that incident, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced he’ll no longer employ grand juries in police shooting cases in his county. Though Freeman decided not to charge the officers involved in Clark’s death, Choi also bypassed a grand jury and directly brought charges against Yanez.

During a news conference Wednesday, Choi said, “It is not enough… to express subjective fear of death or great bodily harm,” while explaining why he concluded the legal standard for using deadly force was not met in connection with Castile’s death.

Reprinted with permission from Think Progress, a branch of The Center for American Progress