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Thursday, November 17, 2016

Minnesota Officer Who Killed Philando Castile Now Charged with Manslaughter


After months of waiting, the Ramsey County Minnesota attorney has announced that manslaughter charges will be brought against the officer who shot and killed Philando Castile. Everything about the incident, from the traffic stop through to the shooting, was controversial and the State agreed. Along with charges of manslaughter, Officer Jeronimo Yanez was also hit with several counts of discharging a firearm. The indictment should be seen as a small victory against the police state.
According to Ramsey County Attorney John J. Choi, “No reasonable officer – knowing, seeing and hearing what Officer Yanez did at the time – would have used deadly force under these circumstances.” Choi was privy to the dash cam recording of the incident that captured everything from the stop to the shooting. The public was left to debate the justification of the shooting since July, while prosecutors and police had slightly more information. “I have given Officer Yanez every benefit of the doubt on his use of deadly force, but I cannot allow the death of a motorist who was lawfully carrying a firearm under these facts and circumstances to go unaccounted for.”

Choi provided new information gleamed from the dash-cam recording, which we have yet to see. He indicated that Philando Castile acted “calmly and in a nonthreatening manner.” He advised Yanez that he did in fact have a firearm, to which Yanez stated, “Don’t reach for it.” According to Choi, Castile attempted to respond, but Yanez continued to interrupt him. Castile says, “I’m not pulling it out.” Yanez then screams at him, “Don’t pull it out!” and proceeds to fire seven shots at Castile. According to Choi it ‘surprised’ the other officers who were on scene. After paramedics removed Castile from the car, his firearm was recovered from his front right pocket. The chamber was empty. According to Choi, he did not believe that Castile was reaching for it at the time he was shot.

The Philando Castile shooting was the first time that the aftermath of such violence was live streamed on Facebook. The video did not catch the shooting, but the moments immediately after. The video captured Ofc. Yanez clearly having a moment of panic once he realized what he had done. It is unknown how much influence Reynolds’s video had over prosecutors. The video led to massive protests that shut down highways and led right to the governor’s mansion. While this indictment is the correct step forward, the prosecutor has their work cut out for them. As we recently saw in the Samuel Dubois shooting, the officer who was caught on video murdering an innocent man just had a hung jury, which resulted in a mistrial. Even when caught on video, jurors can’t decide if it should be considered murder when a cop kills somebody.

As usual, Yanez is sticking with the story that he “feared for his life” and that Castile “failed to follow his commands.” Despite his claims, Choi indicated that the subjective fear of an officer of threat of deadly bodily harm, is simply not good enough. Any cop can say they were in fear. But when the facts and circumstances are captured on dash cam for prosecutors to see, it is hard to stick by the same old story. According to St Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, Choi “made one of the hardest decisions a prosecutor has to make.” He stated that he believes the facts of the investigation are what led Choi to his decision. Yanez has his first court appearance on Friday. A federal civil rights investigation is still underway.

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