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A Minnesota police officer who shot a black motorist—whose dying moments were live-streamed on Facebook—was charged with manslaughter and two other felonies Wednesday.
Prosecutors said St. Anthony Police Officer Jeronimo Yanez’s shooting of Philando Castile during a traffic stop “was not justified.” Video footage, taken by Castile’s girlfriend and live-streamed on Facebook, shows the victim bleeding in the car while the officer watches over at gunpoint. The video, which doesn’t show the shooting, has been played on social media and YouTube millions of times following the July 6 death in a St. Paul suburb.
“I would submit that no reasonable officer knowing, seeing, and hearing what Officer Yanez did at the time would have used deadly force under these circumstances,” Ramsey County District Attorney John Choi told a news conference.
The 32-year-old man’s death caught the attention of President Barack Obama, who said that all Americans should feel “deeply troubled” by the Castile shooting.
Diamond Reynolds, the dead man’s girlfriend, used her mobile phone to film the gruesome aftermath of the shooting, and it was streamed on Facebook. Castile is seen soaked in blood in the driver’s side, shot seven times.
Enlarge / St. Anthony Officer Jeronimo Yanez.
City Of Lauderdale
The “police shot him for no apparent reason, no reason at all,” the girlfriend says in the video. The woman says that the officer had asked Castile for his driver’s license and registration. Then he was shot. The girlfriend calmly tells the officer “that it was in his wallet, but he had a pistol on him because he’s licensed to carry.”
“The officer said, ‘Don’t move.’ As he was putting his hands back up, the officer shot him in the arm four or five times,” the passenger says in the video.
“I told him not to reach for it,” the officer is heard screaming after he fired.
District Attorney Choi told the news conference that the manslaughter and unlawful weapon-discharge charges (PDF) came after a 19-week investigation that included the review of audio and dash cam video footage that captured the entire shooting. Choi did not release any of that video or audio, but he recounted many of the details.
He said that the officer, along with partner Joseph Kauser, pulled over Castile that July night because he matched a robbery suspect’s description, including a “wide-set nose.”
The district attorney said Castile was buckled in his seatbelt and initially had both hands in view during the stop. The officer, Choi said, asked Castile for his driver’s license and proof of insurance. Castile gave the officer his proof of 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.
Moments later, Yanez said, “Don’t reach for (the gun),” Choi said.
“I’m not pulling it out,” Castile responded, according to the district attorney.
Yanez, the district attorney continued, then yelled: “Don’t pull it out.”
Yanez fired seven shots, the district attorney said.
The dying man’s final words, the district attorney said, were, “I wasn’t reaching for it.”
Choi said Castile’s “dying words were in protest that he wasn’t reaching for his gun. There simply was no objective threat posed to Officer Yanez.”
The district attorney said paramedics found Castile’s gun in his shorts pocket.
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