Officer Charged with Manslaughter in Fatal Shooting That Was Streamed Live on Facebook
A Minnesota police officer has been charged with second-degree manslaughter in the fatal shooting of Philando Castile, an African-American cafeteria worker whose death this summer sparked protests after its immediate aftermath was live-streamed on Facebook.
St. Anthony, Minnesota, police officer Jeronimo Yanez, who shot Castile during a traffic stop on July 6, will appear in court on Friday on the manslaughter charge, where he will enter a plea. He faces up to 10 years in jail if convicted. He has also been charged with two felony counts of dangerous discharge of a firearm, according to authorities.
He did not immediately return PEOPLE’s call for comment. “To those of you may say this incident was Philando Castile’s fault, 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, Minnesota, attorney John J. Choi told reporters at a news conference Wednesday.
Castile’s girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, who was with him and her daughter in the car during the shooting, has said he was shot after being asked to provide his driver’s license — and after he announced he had a gun, for which he had a permit. Yanez has said he feared for his life and thought Castile was reaching for a gun to shoot him. Authorities dismissed that defense in announcing the charges against him.
“Unreasonable fear cannot justify the use of deadly force,” Choi said Wednesday. “Philando Castile was not resisting or fleeing,” Choi said. “There was absolutely no criminal intent exhibited by him throughout this encounter. He was respectful and compliant based upon the instructions and orders he was given. He volunteered in good faith that he had a firearm, beyond what the law requires.
“He empathically stated that he wasn’t pulling it out. His movement was restricted by his own seat belt.” “I have given officer Yanez every benefit of the doubt on his use of deadly force,” Choi said, “but I cannot allow the death of a motorist who was lawfully carrying a firearm under these facts and circumstances to go unaccounted for.”
In a statement of probable cause obtained by PEOPLE, prosecutors also alleged that Yanez put other lives in danger when he opened fire one minute after initiating the stop: “Yanez’s discharge of his firearm seven times into a vehicle in very close proximity to and towards Reynolds and her 4-year-old daughter endangered their safety.”
Castile’s uncle, Clarence Castile, told the St. Paul Pioneer Press that his family is “emphatically” happy about the decision to charge Yanez. “Without a doubt, we’re pleased,” he told the newspaper, declining to elaborate. The family also held their own news conference Wednesday, where attorney Judge Glenda Hatchett said, “We see this as a stake in the ground that we are sending a clear message that things must change in this country.” (The Castile family could not immediately be reached.)
Castile’s shooting went viral after Reynolds documented what happened afterward live on Facebook, including showing Castile bleeding next to her in the car. Reynolds has steadfastly maintained that Castile did everything one is supposed to do during a police traffic stop. Her 4-year-old daughter was sitting in the back seat when he was killed. Yanez’s attorney has previously said, “This has nothing to do with race and everything to do with the presence of a gun. Deadly force would not have been used if not for the presence of a gun.”
Yanez is the first officer charged in a police-involved death in Minnesota in more than 15 years, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.