The officer that shot and killed Philando Castile has been acquitted of all charges. Jeronimo Yanez, a Minnesota police officer, was acquitted of manslaughter on Friday. Outside the courthouse, Philando Castile’s mother said she believed the officer got away with “murder”.
Castile was shot seven times by an officer during a traffic stop as he sat in the front seat of a car. After the shots were fired, Castile’s girlfriend began live streaming the encounter while sitting next to him.
The Guardian reported that Castile’s family were distraught and angry at the verdict. Castile’s mother said
“I will continue to say murder,” she said. “I am so very, very, very disappointed in the system here in the state of Minnesota. Nowhere in the world do you die from being honest and telling the truth.”
Philando Castile’s sister, Allysza, said through tears: “He didn’t deserve to die the way he did. I will never have faith in the system.”
This case raises many questions about the interactions between Black Americans and the American police force.
Officer Yanez stated he pulled Castile over using the pretext of his broken brake light. But primarily because he thought he matched the description of one of the suspects of a recent robbery of a convenience story. However, it is reasoning like this that angers and brings fear to many black people. Simply looking similar to another Black person can lead to ourselves or our loved ones being killed by the police. This is deeply troubling.
The Guardian goes on to give a summary of the police stop and the recorded conversation that took place from the squad-car video. The limited angle of this footage shows what happened outside of the car and the conversation but not Castile’s actions inside of the car.
The video showed that the situation escalated quickly, Yanez shooting Castile just seconds after Castile said: “Sir, I have to tell you, I do have a firearm on me.” Five of the officer’s seven shots struck Castile. Witnesses testified that the gun was in a pocket of Castile’s shorts when paramedics removed him from his vehicle.
Prosecutors called several witnesses to try to show that Yanez never saw the gun and acted recklessly and unreasonably. But defense attorneys called their own witnesses to back up Yanez’s claim that he saw Castile pulling the gun and that Yanez was right to shoot.
After shooting Castile, Yanez was heard on the squad-car video telling a supervisor that he did not know where Castile’s gun was, then that he told Castile to get his hand off it. Yanez testified: “What I meant by that was I didn’t know where the gun was up until I saw it in his right thigh area.”
He said he clearly saw a gun and that Castile ignored his commands to stop pulling it out of his pocket. His voice choked with emotion as he talked of being “scared to death” and thinking of his wife and baby daughter in the split-second before he fired.
Prosecutors argued that Yanez could have taken lesser steps, such as asking to see Castile’s hands or asking where the gun was. After Castile told the officer he had the gun, Yanez told Castile “OK, don’t reach for it then” and “Don’t pull it out”.
On the squad-car video, Castile can be heard saying “I’m not pulling it out” as Yanez opens fire. Prosecutors said Castile’s last words were: “I wasn’t reaching for it.”
Yanez talks about being ‘scared to death’ but once again it is the civilian whom has ended up dead. Castile was not a wanted criminal and has consistently being pulled over by the police. Therefore, his actions may have been exactly the same as they had been in previous police stops; the only difference was Officer Yanez. These are the questions and queries that will be asked regardless of this verdict.
Philando Castile was one of 1092 people killed by the American police in 2016. The majority of cases result in an officer being found not guilty. This is the root cause of the #BlackLivesMatter movement.
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