On Wednesday afternoon, Minnesota’s Ramsey County Attorney John Choi announced that the cop who fatally shot a Black male motorist during a traffic stop July 6 has been formerly charged with second-degree manslaughter and two felony counts of dangerous discharge of a firearm. St. Anthony police officer Jeronimo Yanez is scheduled to make his first court appearance this Friday.
“Based upon our thorough and exhaustive review of the facts of the case it is my conclusion that the use of deadly force … was not justified,” Choi said in announcing the charges.
Just moments after the Latino cop shot Philando Castile, Castile’s fiancée Diamond Reynolds, who was riding in the car along with her young daughter, began live-streaming the gruesome scene on Facebook.
Reynolds’ live feed showed a blood-soaked Castile slumped in the front seat, with Yanez outside the car saying, “I told him not to reach for it.”
According to Reynolds, the 32-year-old Castile told the officer he was legally carrying a gun.
“[Castile] volunteered in good faith that he had a firearm, beyond what the law requires,” Choi stated. “He emphatically stated he was not pulling it out. He was restricted by his seat belt. He was accompanied by a woman and a young child.”
Paramedics removed a loaded 0.40-caliber pistol from Castile’s shorts, but it was not chambered, Choi said. They also discovered his wallet, which contained his driver’s license and a concealed carry permit.
“We believe Philando Castile never tried to remove the gun from his right front pocket that was a foot deep,” Choi said.
Yanez’s attorney, Tom Kelly, said his client reacted to the presence of a gun, and that he was on high alert because Castile looked like a possible match for an armed robbery suspect.
“The mere presence of a firearm alone cannot justify use of deadly force,” Choi responded. “No reasonable officer knowing, seeing and hearing what Officer Yanez did at the time would have used deadly force under these circumstances.”
Squad car footage showed Castile handing Yanez his insurance card. When Yanez requested to see his driver’s license, Castile calmly replied that he had a firearm and a permit to carry it, according to Choi. “Yanez told him not to reach for the gun and Castile twice replied he would not. Then Yanez screamed, ‘Don’t pull it out’ and quickly pulled his own gun with his right hand. He fired seven rounds in rapid succession into the vehicle.”
“Castile’s dying words were, ‘I wasn’t reaching for it,’” Choi said.
“I have given officer Yanez every benefit of the doubt on his use of deadly force,” Choi noted. “But I cannot allow the death of a motorist who was lawfully carrying a firearm under these facts and circumstances to go unaccounted for.”
Family members contend Castile, an elementary school cafeteria worker, was racially profiled. His murder sparked protests nationwide.
Yanez’s partner never pulled his weapon, Choi said.
Video and audio footage has not yet been released.