On July 6, 2016, Philando Castile was shot and killed by Jeronimo Yanez, a St. Anthony, Minnesota, police officer, after being pulled over in Falcon Heights, a suburb of Saint Paul. Castile was in a car with his girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, and her four-year-old daughter when he was pulled over by Yanez and another officer.
The shooting achieved a high profile from a live-streamed video on Facebook made by Diamond Reynolds in the immediate aftermath of the shooting. It shows her interacting with the armed officer as a mortally injured Castile lies slumped over, moaning slightly and his left arm and side bloody. The Hennepin County Medical Examiner's office said he had sustained multiple gunshot wounds and reported that Castile died at 9:37 p.m. CDT in the emergency room of the Hennepin County Medical Center, about 20 minutes after being shot.
According to Reynolds' testimony and a police dashcam video/audio, Castile told the officer he had a firearm and had one hand in his pants pocket after being asked for his license and registration. Reynolds said Castile was shot while reaching for his ID after telling Yanez he was armed. The officer shot at Castile seven times.
On November 16, 2016, John Choi, the Ramsey County Attorney, announced that Yanez was being charged with three felonies: one count of second-degree manslaughter and two counts of dangerous discharge of a firearm. Choi said, "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."
Philando Divall Castile (July 16, 1983 – July 6, 2016) was 32 years old at the time of his death. Castile was born in St. Louis, Missouri. He graduated from Saint Paul Central High School in 2001 and worked for the Saint Paul Public School District from 2002 until his death. Castile began as a nutrition services assistant at Chelsea Heights Elementary School and Arlington High School (now Washington Technology Magnet School). He was promoted to nutrition services supervisor at J. J. Hill Montessori Magnet School, in August 2014. Prior to the shooting, Castile had been stopped by the police 52 times for minor traffic infractions.
Jeronimo Yanez was identified by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension as the officer who shot Castile. The other officer involved in the traffic stop was identified as Joseph Kauser, who was described as Yanez's partner. Both officers had been with the St. Anthony Police Department for four years at the time of the shooting, and were longtime friends who had graduated together from the Minnesota State University, Mankato police academy in 2010.
The St. Anthony Police Department has 23 officers. Eight officers are funded through policing contracts with the cities of Lauderdale and Falcon Heights. In a press briefing at the scene, St. Anthony's interim police chief Jon Mangseth said that the shooting was the first officer-involved shooting that the department had experienced in at least thirty years.
Castile was pulled over as part of a traffic stop by Yanez and Kauser in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, a suburb of Saint Paul. Castile and Reynolds were returning from shopping at a grocery store; earlier that evening, Castile had gone for a haircut, eaten dinner with his sister, and apparently picked up his girlfriend from his apartment in St. Paul.
A St. Anthony police officer patrolling Larpenteur Avenue radioed to a nearby squad that he planned to pull over the car and check the IDs of the driver and passenger, saying, "The two occupants just look like people that were involved in a robbery. The driver looks more like one of our suspects, just because of the wide-set nose. I couldn't get a good look at the passenger." At 9:04 p.m. CDT, the officer told a nearby officer that he would wait for him to make the stop.
The stop took place on Larpenteur Avenue at Fry Street, just outside the Minnesota state fairgrounds, at about 9:05 p.m. CDT. Riding in a 1997 white Oldsmobile with Castile were his girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, and her four-year-old daughter. Castile was the driver, Reynolds was the front-seat passenger, and the child was in the back seat. "According to investigators, Yanez approached the car from the driver's side, while Kauser approached it from the passenger side."
The police dashcam video shows that 40 seconds elapsed between when Yanez first started talking to Castile through the car window and when Yanez began shooting at him. According to the dashcam, after Yanez asked for Castile's driver's license and proof of insurance, Castile gave him his proof of insurance card, which Yanez appeared to glance at and tuck in his outer pocket. Castile then calmly informed Yanez: "Sir, I have to tell you that I do have a firearm on me." Quoting the Star Tribune description of the next 13 seconds of the audio/video:
Before Castile completed the sentence, Yanez interrupted and calmly replied, 'OK', and placed his right hand on the holster of his own holstered weapon. Yanez said, 'Okay, don't reach for it, then.' Castile responded, 'I'm not pulling it out,' and Reynolds also said, 'He's not pulling it out.' Yanez screamed, 'Don't pull it out!' Yanez quickly pulled his own gun with his right hand while he reached inside the driver's window with his left hand. Yanez removed his left arm from the car and fired seven shots in the direction of Castile in rapid succession. Reynolds yelled, 'You just killed my boyfriend!' Castile moaned and said, 'I wasn't reaching for it.' Reynolds loudly said, 'He wasn't reaching for it.' Before she completed her sentence, Yanez again screamed, 'Don't pull it out!' Reynolds responded, 'He wasn't.' Yanez yelled, 'Don't move! Fuck!'
Of the seven shots fired by Yanez at point blank range, five hit Castile and two of those hit and pierced his heart.
The events that occurred immediately following the shooting were streamed live in a 10-minute video by Reynolds via Facebook. The recording appears to begin seconds after Castile was shot, just after 9:00 p.m. CDT. The video depicts Castile slumped over, moaning and moving slightly, with a bloodied left arm and side. In the video, Reynolds is speaking with Yanez and explaining what happened. Reynolds stated on the video that Yanez "asked him for license and registration. He told him that it was in his wallet, but he had a pistol on him because he's licensed to carry." Castile did have a license to carry a gun. Reynolds further narrated that the officer said, "Don't move" and as Castile was putting his hands back up, the officer shot him in the arm four or five times. Reynolds told the officer, "You shot four bullets into him, sir. He was just getting his license and registration, sir." Reynolds also said "Please don't tell me he's dead," while Yanez exclaims: "I told him not to reach for it! I told him to get his hand open!"
At one point in the video footage, an officer orders Reynolds to get on her knees and the sound of Reynolds being handcuffed can be heard. Reynolds' phone falls onto the ground but continues recording, and an officer periodically yells, "Fuck!" Audio/video from the squad car of Joseph Kauser (where Reynolds and her daughter were put after Reynolds was handcuffed), shows Reynolds' daughter telling her, "Mom, please stop cussing and screaming 'cause I don't want you to get shooted".
The day following the shooting, Reynolds said that police had "treated me like a criminal ... like it was my fault." By the afternoon following Castile's death, the video had been viewed nearly 2.5 million times on Facebook. Reynolds, who was detained with Castile during the shooting around 9:00 p.m. CDT, was taken into custody and questioned at a police station then released the following morning around 5:00 a.m.
According to police and emergency audio of the aftermath obtained by the Star Tribune, at 9:06 p.m., Kauser called in the shooting, reporting: "Shots fired. Larpenteur and Fry." The dispatcher answered: "Copy. You just heard it?" Yanez then screamed: "Code three!" in a tone of voice the newspaper termed "audibly panicked." Many officers then rushed to the scene. One officer reports, "One adult female being taken into custody. Driver at gunpoint. Juvenile female, child, is with [another officer]. We need a couple other squads to block off intersections." Another officer called in, "All officers are good. One suspect that needs medics."
Reynolds said that officers had failed to check Castile for a pulse or to see if he was breathing for several minutes after the shooting, and instead comforted the officer who fired the shots.
In the dashcam audio/video of the incident Yanez can be heard being questioned by St. Anthony Police Officer Tressa Sunde within minutes of the shooting, and telling her:
[Castile] was sitting in the car, seat belted. I told him, 'Can I see your license?' And then, he told me he had a firearm. I told him not to reach for it and (sigh) when he went down to grab, I told him not to reach for it (clears throat) and then he kept it right there, and I told him to take his hands off of it, and then he (sigh) he had his, his grip a lot wider than a wallet .... And I don't know where the gun was, he didn't tell me where the fucking gun was, and then it was just getting hinky, he gave, he was just staring ahead, and then I was getting fucking nervous, and then I told him, I know I fucking told him to get his fucking hand off his gun.
According to the official Minnesota Department of Public Safety's Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) transcript of the interview of Yanez and his attorneys Tom Kelly and Robert Fowler, Yanez stated that his justification for the shooting was based on fear for his own life because he believed that Castile's behavior was abusive toward a young girl passenger (Reynolds' daughter) in the car. Yanez said: "I thought, I was gonna die, and I thought if he's, if he has the, the guts and the audacity to smoke marijuana in front of the five-year-old girl and risk her lungs and risk her life by giving her secondhand smoke and the front seat passenger doing the same thing, then what, what care does he give about me?" The victims' previous marijuana use later became a focus of the defense, with a mason jar containing a small amount having been found in the car.
According to the local publication City Pages description of the BCA conversation, Yanez "could never state definitively ... that he saw a firearm that day". Yanez uses "various terms to suggest the presence of a firearm". Yanez states, "it appeared to me that he was wrapping something around his fingers and almost like if I were to put my hand around my gun. It was dark inside the vehicle ..." At another point "it seemed like he was pulling out a gun and the barrel just kept coming." "I know he had an object and it was dark. And he was pulling it out with his right hand." He added: "It was, to me, it just looked big and apparent that he's gonna shoot you, he's gonna kill you."
However, in his court testimony almost a year later, Yanez was definitive, testified that he was "able to see the firearm in Mr. Castile’s hand," and was forced to shoot him. However, the gun was still in Castile's pocket when paramedics were preparing to load his fatally wounded body into an ambulance.
The Hennepin County Medical Examiner's office ruled Castile's death a homicide and said that he had sustained multiple gunshot wounds. The office reported that Castile died at 9:37 p.m. CDT in the emergency room of the Hennepin County Medical Center, about 20 minutes after being shot. On July 14, Castile was buried following a funeral service at the Cathedral of Saint Paul, attended by "thousands of mourners, diverse in race, gender and age."
The reasonableness of the initial traffic stop, and the facts of what occurred in the 103 seconds of the stop (between the end of the pre-stop police dispatcher radio and the beginning of Reynolds' recording) were "hotly disputed" almost immediately after the shooting occurred. On July 9, Yanez's attorney, Thomas Kelly of Minneapolis, said his client "reacted to the presence of that gun and the display of that gun" and that the shooting "had nothing to do with race. This had everything to do with the presence of a gun."
In the video recorded shortly after the shooting, Reynolds said that the car was pulled over for a broken taillight. Yanez' attorney Kelly stated following the shooting that his client stopped Castile in part because he resembled a suspect in an armed robbery that had taken place nearby four days earlier, and in part because of a broken taillight. A Castile family attorney, Albert Goins, questioned this account, said that if Yanez actually thought Castile was a robbery suspect, the police would have made a "felony traffic stop" (involving "bringing the suspect out at gunpoint while officers are in a position of cover and having them lie on the ground until they can identify who that individual is") rather than an ordinary traffic stop (in which officers stop the car and ask the driver to produce documents). Goins said, "Either [Castile] was a robbery suspect and [Yanez] didn't follow the procedures for a felony stop, or [Castile] was not a robbery suspect and [Yanez] shot a man because he stood at his window getting his information."
Kelly confirmed the authenticity of the pre-stop police audio, in which one officer reports that the driver resembled a recent robbery suspect due to his "wide-set nose." The particular robbery to which the officer referred was unclear, but may have been a July 2 armed robbery at a local convenience store, in which the two suspects were "described as black men with shoulder-length or longer dreadlocks" with no information about estimated height, weight or ages. Goins said, "I can't imagine that it's reasonable suspicion to make a stop because somebody had a broad nose."
Castile's mother Valerie Castile and her lawyer Glenda Hatchett called for the case to be referred to a special prosecutor and called for the U.S. Department of Justice to conduct a federal investigation.
By 12:30 a.m. on July 7, about three hours after the shooting, protesters gathered at the scene, "peaceful but visibly angry". More than 200 people were present. After news of Castile's death spread, crowds of protestors gathered outside the Minnesota Governor's Residence in St. Paul, chanting Castile's name and demanding that Governor Mark Dayton make a statement. That night, demonstrations in St. Paul continued, remaining "peaceful but forceful".
Nekima Levy-Pounds, president of the Minneapolis chapter of the NAACP, said that her group would request a federal investigation. She also called for an independent body to investigate the shooting, expressing skepticism with the state agency that is leading the investigation of the incident, the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, a division of the Department of Public Safety. NAACP president Cornell William Brooks said, "I'm waiting to hear the human outcry from Second Amendment defenders over [this incident]..." Black Lives Matter activist DeRay Mckesson said, "Philando Castile should be alive today". On July 8, over 1,000 demonstrators shut down Interstate 880 in Oakland, California, for several hours to protest Castile's shooting death and that of Alton Sterling the day before.
After a week of peaceful protests and vigils, violence between protesters and police in St. Paul broke out on July 9 and 10. Some 102 people were arrested and 21 officers (15 police officers and six Minnesota State Patrol officers) had been injured, one of them seriously. A group threw rocks, bottles, and Molotov cocktails at police and police used pepper spray and tear gas to disperse the crowd. The protesters caused Interstate 94 in between Minnesota State Highway 280 and downtown St. Paul to be closed. After they were dispersed from the highway, another group of protests took place at Dale and Grand Avenue. The violence was condemned by President Obama, Governor Dayton, St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, and Police Chief Todd Axtell, who called for calm.
After the shooting, a number of activists established an encampment outside of the Governor's Residence. On July 18, demonstrators cleared the encampment and moved off the road after police directed them to move, saying that they could continue to protest "as long as it was done on the sidewalk" and did not impede vehicle or pedestrian traffic. The interactions between police and demonstrators were peaceful, and no arrests were made.
On July 19, 21 protesters—mostly members of the St. Paul and Minneapolis teachers' federations—were arrested willingly at a protest in Minneapolis after blocking a street in Minneapolis and refusing orders to disperse. The teachers marched from the Minneapolis Convention Center (where an American Federation of Teachers convention was being held) to the Nicollet Mall area; they were cited for misdemeanor public nuisance and released.
My deepest condolences go out to the family and friends. On behalf of all decent-minded Minnesotans, we are shocked and horrified by what occurred last night. This kind of behavior is unacceptable. It is not the norm in Minnesota. I promise ... to see that this matter is brought to justice and all avenues are pursued and do a complete investigation. Justice will be served in Minnesota.
Dayton said he had requested an independent U.S. Department of Justice investigation and had spoken to White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough about the matter. Dayton also commented, "Would this have happened if those passengers would have been white? I don't think it would have." He promised to "do everything in my power to help protect the integrity" of the ongoing parallel state investigation "to ensure a proper and just outcome for all involved."
U.S. Representative Betty McCollum, Democrat of Minnesota, whose district includes the place where Castile was shot, also called for a Justice Department investigation, and U.S. Senator Al Franken, Democrat of Minnesota, also called for a federal investigation, saying in a statement: "I am horrified that we are forced to confront yet another death of a young African-American man at the hands of law enforcement. And I am heartbroken for Philando's family and loved ones, whose son, brother, boyfriend, and nephew was taken from them last night." U.S. Representative Keith Ellison, Democrat of Minnesota, denounced the "systematic targeting of African Americans and a systematic lack of accountability."
Speaking shortly after the shootings of Castile and Alton Sterling, President Barack Obama did not comment on the specific incidents, but called on the U.S. to "do better" and said that controversial incidents arising from the police use of force were "not isolated incidents" but rather were "symptomatic of a broader set of racial disparities that exist in our criminal justice system". Obama expressed "extraordinary appreciation and respect for the vast majority of police officers" and noted the difficult nature of the job. He stated, "When incidents like this occur, there's a big chunk of our citizenry that feels as if, because of the color of their skin, they are not being treated the same, and that hurts, and that should trouble all of us. This is not just a black issue, not just a Hispanic issue. This is an American issue that we all should care about." Obama telephoned Castile's mother to offer his condolences.
Following the shooting of Castile, Sterling, and police officers in Dallas, the Bahamian government, a Caribbean island nation with an over 90% citizenry of Afro-Bahamian origin, issued a travel advisory to its citizens in the United States, stating "[i]n particular young [Bahamian] males are asked to exercise extreme caution in affected cities in their interactions with the police. Do not be confrontational and cooperate". Travel advisories were also issued by the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, warning for caution in the United States due to ongoing violence and the U.S. "gun culture", and to avoid crowded areas, protests, and demonstrations as "civil disorder can result".
In honor of Castile, the Philando Castile Memorial Scholarship has been started at St. Paul Central High School. The first annual $5,000 award was given to Marques Watson in 2017.
The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) was the lead agency in charge of the investigation. Two days following the shooting, Ramsey County Attorney John Choi called for a "prompt and thorough" investigation into the shooting. He said that he had not determined whether he would use a grand jury, but stated that if either a grand jury or prosecutors in his office determined that charges were appropriate, he would "prosecute this case to the fullest extent of the law." Choi also said, "We need to come together as a community, law enforcement included, to improve our practices and procedures so we don't experience any more of these tragedies ever again."
The BCA said that squad-car video and "several" other videos had been collected as evidence. St. Anthony police do not wear body cameras. On September 28, 2016, the BCA announced that it had completed its investigation and turned over its findings to Ramsey County Attorney John Choi. Prosecutors in the Ramsey County Attorney's Office would decide whether to file charges in the shooting or bring the case to a grand jury.
Choi reviewed the evidence with assistance from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Attorney's office, a retired deputy chief of police in Irvine, California, and a former federal prosecutor.  Seven weeks after receiving the BCA report, Choi announced that Yanez was being charged with second degree manslaughter and two counts of dangerous discharge of a firearm. Choi stated:
To justify the use of deadly force, it is not enough, however, for the police officer to merely express a subjective fear of death or great bodily harm. Unreasonable fear cannot justify the use of deadly force. The use of deadly force must be objectively reasonable and necessary, given the totality of the circumstances. Based upon our thorough and exhaustive review of the facts of this case, it is my conclusion that the use of deadly force by Officer Yanez was not justified, and that sufficient facts exist to prove that to be true. Accordingly, we filed a criminal complaint this morning in Ramsey County.
In his press conference announcing his decision to prosecute Yanez, Choi noted facts not consistent with a justified fear of Castile, namely that Yanez's partner, Officer Kauser, who was standing at the car's passenger window during the shooting, "did not touch or remove his gun from its holster", and that in his answers to questioning by Saint Anthony Police Officer Tressa Sunde immediately after the shooting, Yanez "stated he did not know where [Castile's] gun was". Choi also noted that
According to author and former FBI agent Larry Brubaker, who has written two books on officer-involved shootings, "this is the first time an officer has been charged for a fatal shooting in Minnesota in more than 200 cases that spanned over three decades".
The trial of Jeronimo Yanez began May 30, 2017 under Judge William H. Leary III. On June 16, 2017, Officer Yanez was acquitted of all charges. He had been charged with manslaughter and reckless discharge of a firearm.
After five days and more than 25 hours of deliberation, the jury decided that the state had not met its burden for a conviction. Yanez would have faced up to 10 years under Minnesota law if he had been convicted. The jury that determined Yanez's fate consisted of seven men and five women. Two jurors were black. Following the acquittal, a jury member told the press that the specific wording of the law regarding culpable negligence was the main factor among many leading to the verdict.
The day the verdict was announced, the city of St. Anthony announced that "the public will be best served if Officer Yanez is no longer a police officer in our city", and that he would not be returning to the police department from leave after the trial. "The city intends to offer Officer Yanez a voluntary separation agreement to help him transition to another career other than being a St. Anthony officer. The terms of this agreement will be negotiated in the near future, so details are not available at this time. In the meantime, Officer Yanez will not return to active duty."
Members of the Castile family, who had worked closely with authorities throughout the trial, expressed shock and outrage at the verdict, decrying a loss of faith in the system. Although they had earlier discussed a federal civil rights lawsuit, on June 26, 2017, the family released a joint statement with the city of St. Anthony announcing a settlement worth $2.995 million.
On June 20, 2017, Dashcam footage seen by investigators and members of the courtroom during the trial was released to public. On June 21, 2017, Ramsey County released additional evidence, including footage taken inside Yanez's squad car which shows Diamond Reynolds' daughter comforting her mother after the shooting.
The NRA, which advocates for gun rights, had issued a statement after the shooting saying: "The reports from Minnesota are troubling and must be thoroughly investigated. In the meantime, it is important for the NRA not to comment while the investigation is ongoing. Rest assured, the NRA will have more to say once all the facts are known." After the acquittal of Yanez the group issued no statement.
The governor said he was 'forced to confront' the fact that 'this kind of racism exists,' before suggesting that a white passenger would have been treated differently by police.
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