Officer charged with manslaughter in Philando Castile killing

Posted at 2:46 PM, Nov 16, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-16 14:46:05-05

(CNN) — The Minnesota police officer who fatally shot Philando Castile during a traffic stop in July was charged Wednesday with second-degree manslaughter and two felony counts of dangerous discharge of a firearm, Ramsey County Attorney John Choi said.

St. Anthony police Officer Jeronimo Yanez will make a first court appearance Friday, Choi said.

“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.

News of Castile’s July 6 death spread like wildfire on social media when his fiancée, Diamond Reynolds, live-streamed the aftermath of the shooting on Facebook Live. Reynolds’ 4-year-old daughter was also in the car when the shooting occurred.

The incident, along with the July 5 fatal police shooting of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, sparked protests nationwide and renewed the debate over the relationship between law enforcement and the communities they serve.

Castile, 32, told the officer he was legally carrying a gun and and paramedics found a loaded pistol in his shorts, but “the mere presence of a firearm alone cannot justify use of deadly force,” Choi said.

“No reasonable officer knowing, seeing and hearing what Officer Yanez did at the time would have used deadly force under these circumstances,” Choi said.

Dashcam video captured conversation

Choi said Yanez told a fellow officer he wanted to pull over Castile’s vehicle that night because the occupants looked like suspects in a recent robbery. Castile’s vehicle also had a nonworking taillight, Yanez said, according to Choi.

Squad car video and audio recorded the conversation and showed Castile first handed Yanez his insurance card, according to Choi. When Yanez asked for his driver’s license, Castile calmly said that he had a firearm and a permit to carry it, Choi said.

Yanez told him not to reach for the gun and Castile twice said he was not going to do that, Choi said.

“Then Officer Yanez screamed, ‘Don’t pull it out’ and quickly pulled his own gun with his right hand,” Choi said. He fired seven rounds “in rapid succession” into the vehicle, Choi said.

‘I wasn’t reaching for it’

Castile’s dying words were, “I wasn’t reaching for it,” Choi said.

Reynolds started live-streaming onto Facebook about 40 seconds after the last shot.

Reynolds’ video feed showed Castile slumping in the front seat with blood covering his shirt. Her video also recorded Yanez outside the car saying, “I told him not to reach for it. I told him to get his hand off it.”

The other police officer, who was standing on the passenger side of the car, never pulled his weapon, Choi said.

“He [Castile] volunteered in good faith that he had a firearm, beyond what the law requires,” Choi said. “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.”

Emergency medical personnel found a .40-caliber pistol in the right front pocket of Castile’s short, Choi said. The gun was loaded but didn’t have a round in the chamber, he said. Also found in Castile’s clothing was his wallet, which contained his driver’s license and a concealed carry permit, Choi said.

“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 could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday, but has told CNN previously that the shooting had nothing to do with race and everything to do with a gun being present at the scene.

Choi said he did not plan to immediately release the squad car video and audio to the public.