Officer Charged With Manslaughter for Shooting Philando Castile

Posted By Power Rogers & Smith, L.L.P. || Nov 16, 2016

Jeronimo Yanez, the St. Anthony, MN police officer who fatally shot Philando Castile on July 6 of this year, was charged with second-degree manslaughter on Wednesday morning. He was also charged with two felony counts of intentional discharge of a firearm.

Yanez is scheduled to appear in court on Friday.

Castile, a 32-year-old black man and cafeteria worker, was pulled over on a busy stretch of road in Falcon Heights, a small suburb about five miles east of Minneapolis, after police noticed that his tail light was broken. John J. Choi, the attorney for Ramsey County, revealed new details about what occurred during the fatal traffic stop. According to Choi, Castile “calmly and in a nonthreatening manner” told the officer that he had a gun, to which Yanez told him to not reach for it.

“Castile tried to respond, but was interrupted by Officer Yanez, who said, ‘Don’t pull it out,’” Choi said when announcing the charges. “Castile responded, ‘I’m not pulling it out.’”

Despite his reassurances, the officer then screamed for Castile to not pull out the gun before firing seven shots into the car, fatally wounding Castile and surprising the other officer at the scene. Paramedics later found the gun, a .40-caliber semiautomatic handgun, in Castile’s shorts pocket with an empty chamber.

“No reasonable officer — knowing, seeing and hearing what Officer Yanez did at the time — would have used deadly force under these circumstances,” Choi said during Wednesday’s announcement.

Diamond Reynolds, Castile’s girlfriend, took out her phone after the shooting to broadcast the aftermath on Facebook Live. In it, she showed Castile bleeding in his seat while informing viewers of the events that led up to the situation.

“The video depicts the immediate aftermath, but it really describes the entirety of what happened because she describes the moments leading up to when she pulled out the phone,” said Power Rogers & Smith L.L.P. attorney Larry Rogers, Jr., who is representing Reynolds, during an interview on ABC News’ Good Morning America. “It’s never denied, it’s never refuted by the officer, and she emphatically says ‘You asked him for his license and registration, and that’s what he was getting at the time that you shot him.’”

Days after the shooting, Yanez’s attorney claimed that he was in possession of audio or video that would provide new information to suggest that there were reasons other than a broken tail light to substantiate the traffic stop. That evidence never surfaced, and it was later determined that the tail light was not broken at the time of the shooting.

Choi did not explain why Yanez was charged with manslaughter rather than murder, but Paul Callan, CNN’s legal analyst, commented on the charges during an episode of Headline News, saying:

“[Choi] must have thought the officer was negligent and careless, that he didn't intentionally kill. But with seven shots fired, it suggests that this maybe goes beyond carelessness.”

If convicted, Yanez faces up to 10 years in prison and a $200,000 fine for the manslaughter charge, and another 5 years and $10,000 for the other two charges.

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