Video Shows Philando Castile Did Not Have to Die
Philando Castile was killed by a police officer during a July 6, 2016, traffic stop for legally owning a firearm while Black, according to dashboard camera video released Tuesday.
But, onFriday, St. Anthony Police Department Officer Jeronimo Yanez was acquitted of the criminal charges of manslaughter and reckless discharge of a firearm in relation to Castile’s death.
The video shows Yanez pulling over Castile, 32, for a broken brake light in Falcon Heights, a suburb of St. Paul, Minn. He explained to Castile why he was stopped and asked him for his license and registration. Castile complied and then informed the officer that he had a firearm.
“Sir, I do have to tell you I have a firearm on me,” Castile said.
The officer then places his hands on his gun holster.
“Okay, okay,” Yanez said. “Don’t reach for it, though. Don’t pull it out.”
Castile calmly responds, “I’m, I, I was reaching for,” but before he finishes, Yanez says, “Don’t pull it out.”
At that point you can hear Castile say, “I’m not pulling it out.”
Within seconds Yanez reaches into the car, then fired seven shots and hit Castile five times, including twice in the heart.
In the video, another officer, standing outside of the passenger side of the vehicle, can be seen jumping back when the shots were fired.
Castile’s permit to carry a gun was later found in his wallet.
WARNING: Viewer Discretion Advised
Yanez testified during the trial that he feared for his life after Castile began reaching for a firearm. But the dashboard camera video does not clarify whether Castile had reached for his gun he told the officer he was carrying.
The trial was held in Ramsey County District Court in St. Paul, Minn. According to the 2000 Census, Ramsey County is approximately 77 percent white, 7.6 percent Black, 8.7 percent Asian, 5 percent Latino and less than 1 percent Native American.
During the trial Yanez said that he smelled marijuana in the car.
“I thought if he’s, if he has the, the guts and the audacity to smoke marijuana in front of the five-year-old girl and risk her lungs and risk her life by giving her secondhand smoke and the front seat passenger doing the same thing then what, what care does he give about me,” he said. “And, I let off the rounds and then after the rounds were off, the little [girl] was screaming.”
Yanez apparently didn’t have an objection to firing a weapon into a car with a child in the backseat.
Castile’s girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, who was in the passenger seat, told investigators that marijuana was in the car, but that it was hers.
Jurors acquitted Yanez even though prosecutors said he was not justified in firing his gun, saying Castile was courteous and non-threatening.
In an opinion piecefor the Star Tribune of Minneapolis, Marshall H. Tanick, a constitutional law attorney, wrote that Yanez’s acquittal on Friday was “hardly surprising.”
Tanick said”the defense portrayal of marijuana use by Castile and his passenger, along with the presence of the drug in the car,” was a factor used to favor acquittal.
According to the Star Tribune, the day after the shooting, Yanez spoke to investigators from the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. He said he pulled Castile over because of the broken brake light and to investigate whether he was one of two men from an armed robbery four days earlier.
He also said he didn’t know whether Reynolds was a man or a woman only that the passenger wore a hat.
Yanez said in an interview: “I just knew that they were both African American, and the driver, uh, appeared to me that he appeared to match the, uh, physical description of the one of our suspects from the strong arm robbery, gunpoint.”
When asked the description of the suspects, Yanez responded, “Um, it was a [sigh], I can’t remember the height, weight but I remember that it was, the male had dreadlocks around shoulder length,” Yanez said. “And then just kind of distinct facial features with like a kind of like a wide-set nose.”
The Star Tribune also reports that during the three-week trial, prosecutors never played the audio recording of Yanez’s one-hour interview with investigators.
“Prosecutors sought to introduce it late in the trial, but the judge said no,” according to the newspaper.
Reynolds live-streamed the aftermath of the July 6 shooting on Facebook Livefor almost 10 minutes as Castile sat bleeding to death in the driver’s seat beside her.
In a live-stream video, the girlfriend of Philando Castile, who was killed at a traffic stop, detailed the incident and showed what followed.
She calmly claims in the video that a police officer pulled over Castile for a broken brake light and he was shot. Reynolds also said that Castile told the officer he was carrying a firearm, with a permit. And, as he was reaching for his wallet to get his identification the cop began shooting.
The chilling video sparked national outrage and resulted in weeks of protests in St. Paul and Minneapolis.
During an emotional testimony during Yanez’s trial, Reynolds said she was afraid for her daughter.
“I know people are not protected against the police,” she said. “I feared for my daughter’s safety and my safety because a gun was pointed in our car.”
Castile’s family plans to file a civil lawsuit in federal court, a spokeswoman for the family’s attorney said.
Yanez will not return to active duty, the city of St. Anthony said, adding that it was negotiating a “voluntary separation agreement” with him.
Many took to social media to voice outrage after seeing the dashcam video:
Officer Yanez should be in jail. He murdered #PhilandoCastile.
deray mckesson (@deray) June 20, 2017
The legal lynching of #PhilandoCastile. Video just released today.
An abomination. This officer is a murderer. Philando obeyed the law. pic.twitter.com/JNXA1XTlVk
Shaun King (@ShaunKing) June 20, 2017
Officer Jeronimo Yanez pictured wearing “Police Lives Matter” bracelet, Philando Castile’s bloodied insurance card still in his pocket. pic.twitter.com/FrjfYjVXMU
Tony Webster (@webster) June 20, 2017
The Daily Show (@TheDailyShow) June 20, 2017
In a segment on “The Daily Show” Tuesday night, host Trevor Noah, who was the keynote speaker at DiversityInc’s event in May, blasted National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre for not commenting on the fatal police shooting of legal gun owner Castile.
“This is one group that you would expect to be losing their goddamned minds about this: the NRA. But, for some strange reason, on this particular case, they’ve been completely silent,” Noah said. “Completely silent. And yet, according to their rhetoric, this is everything that they stand against, right An officer of the state depriving a citizen of his life because he was legally carrying a firearm”