The Minnesota police officer who shot and killed Philando Castile during a traffic stop this past summer was charged with second-degree manslaughter Wednesday along with two other felonies.
In announcing the charges, Ramsey County Attorney John Choi said St. Anthony Police Officer Jeronimo Yanez’s use of deadly force was not warranted.
Castile, a 32-year-old school cafeteria worker, was killed on July 6 after police pulled him over in the Falcon Heights suburb of St. Paul. The aftermath of the shooting was livestreamed on Facebook by Castile’s girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds.
“Based upon our thorough and exhaustive review of the facts of the case it is my conclusion that the use of deadly force … was not justified,” Choi said. “No reasonable officer knowing, seeing and hearing what Officer Yanez did at the time would have used deadly force under these circumstances.”
Yanez will make his first court appearance Friday.
Choi said that while a gun was recovered in Castile’s possession, Castile also possessed a concealed weapons permit and there was no indication he had attempted to pull out his gun. “The mere presence of a firearm alone cannot justify use of deadly force,” Choi said in his statement.
“He volunteered in good faith that he had a firearm, beyond what the law requires,” Choi said. “He emphatically stated he was not pulling it out. He was restricted by his seat belt. He was accompanied by a woman and a young child. We believe Philando Castile never tried to remove the gun from his right front pocket that was a foot deep.”
In an interview with ABC News on Wednesday, Reynolds said the fact that her boyfriend was Black played a role in his death. “If he were a white man, he would have been let go,” she said.
Indeed, at apress conference in July immediately following Castile’s death,Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton said Castile would be alive if he were white. “Would this have happened if the driver and the passengers had been white” he asked. “I don’t think so.”
He added that the policeresponse during the traffic stop was “way over” what was called for. “No one should be shot in Minnesota for a taillight being out of function. No one should be killed in Minnesota while seated in their car.”
Following the shooting, Reynolds used her cellphone to document the incident while Castile sat bleeding to death in the driver’s seat beside her. Reynolds’ 4-year-old daughter was sitting in the back seat when the shooting occurred.
In the video, Reynolds says police pulled them over for a broken taillight and Castile was shot four times. She recounts that Castile told Yanez he was carrying a firearm, with a permit. But as he was reaching for his wallet to get his identification, Yanez began shooting.
As Reynolds continues to document the incident, the video shows Castile’s bloody torso and the sound of him writhing in pain. Yanez remains standing at the driver’s side window with his weapon pointed at his victim.
Yanez yells, “I told him not to reach for it. I told him to get his hands up.”
“Oh, my God, please don’t tell me he’s dead,” Reynolds says. “Please don’t tell me my boyfriend went out like that.”
Yanez, while still pointing the gun, then says, “Keep your hands where they are.”
If convicted, Yanez could be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison and fined $20,000 on the second-degree manslaughter charge. He also faces up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine on the other charges.