On July 6, 2016, St. Anthony, Minnesota, police officer Jeronimo Yanez shot and killed 32-year-old Philando Castile in front of his partner and her daughter. Today (November 16), Ramsey County Attorney John Choi announced that Yanez will face criminal charges for his actions.
StarTribune reports that Yanez was indicted on charges of second-degree manslaughter and two felony counts of dangerous discharge of a firearm. A guilty verdict for the manslaughter could carry a sentence of up to 10 years and a $20,000 fine. Each of the firearm charges come with up to two years in prison and $5,000.
Castile—who was Black—was shot during a traffic stop, after informing officers that he had a registered firearm in the car. His girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, posted a Facebook live video of the aftermath of the shooting, which kicked off protests citywide. Per StarTribune, Yanez—who is Latinx—is the first Minnesota-area officer to be charged in a police-involved death since 2000, despite more than 150 killings in those 16 years. Yanez is scheduled to report to court on Friday (November 18).
When he was interviewed by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (MBCA), Yanez told investigators that he was scared for his life. But during a press conference held today, Choi provided an account of the events that did not support that story. Per StarTribune:
Yanez and his partner, Joseph Kauser, pulled Castile over the night of July 6 because he matched the description of a robbery suspect, and noted his “wide-set nose.” Castile immediately complied with the stop, Choi said. Dashcam video and audio captured the next “critical minute,” Choi said.
Yanez said he was aware that Castile was buckled in his seatbelt. He described Castile as initially having his left arm over the steering wheel with both hands in view. Yanez and Castile exchanged greetings, and Yanez told him about a broken brake light. Yanez asked Castile to produce his driver’s license and proof of insurance. After Castile provided him with the insurance, “Castile then calmly and in a non-threatening manner said, ‘Sir, I do have to tell you that I have a firearm on me,’” Choi said.
Yanez replied OK, then placed his hand on his gun, according to Choi.
Yanez said, “Don’t reach for (the gun),” Choi said.
Castile responded, “I’m not pulling it out.”
Yanez screamed “Don’t pull it out,” then with his left hand reached inside the vehicle. Yanez withdrew his hand, then fired seven shots in rapid succession.
The final shot was fired at 9:06 p.m.
Castile’s final words, Choi said, were, “I wasn’t reaching for it.”
“His dying words were in protest that he wasn’t reaching for his gun,” Choi said. “There simply was no objective threat posed to Officer Yanez.”
Choi and his office reviewed the case after MBCA turned over its report in September, opting to make the decision himself rather than letting a grand jury decide. Ultimately, he concluded that the “use of deadly force by Officer Yanez was not justified.”