The Minnesota police officer who fatally shot a black man during a traffic stop in July will be charged with manslaughter after the county attorney found the shooting was not justified.
St. Anthony Police Officer Jeronimo Yanez killed Philando Castile, a 32-year-old school cafeteria worker who was legally carrying a concealed weapon, in Falcon Heights on July 6. The aftermath of the shooting was streamed live on Facebook by Castile’s girlfriend and quickly went viral. Several days of protests followed the shooting.
Yanez will be charged with second-degree manslaughter and two counts of dangerous discharge of a firearm, Ramsey County Attorney John Choi announced Wednesday at a press conference.
The charges are all felonies. The accusations of dangerous discharge of a firearm stem from the shots being fired into the car near Castile’s girlfriend and her child, who was in the back seat, Choi said.
“Unreasonable fear can not justify the use of deadly force,” Choi said at the press conference.
The other St. Anthony officer at the scene of the shooting, Joseph Kauser, will not be charged, Choi said.
Yanez, 28, has been on paid administrative leave since the shooting.
The investigation into the shooting was completed by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, the state police force, in September. Choi said at the press conference he decided to make the charging decision himself, rather than bring the case to a grand jury so he will be “directly accountable to the public.”
“My conscience tells me it would be wrong to ask a grand jury make this decision when I know in my heart what must be done,” Choi said.
You can read the criminal complaint filed by Choi below:
Castile was pulled over because Yanez thought he looked like a suspect in a recent robbery, according to police scanner audio from the night of the shooting. When asked if Castile was still suspected in that robbery, Choi said he is not, and he would not have brought the charges against Castile if he thought otherwise.
Along with the Facebook Live video, the traffic stop and shooting was caught on a dashboard camera in Yanez’s patrol car, Choi said. That video will not be released to the public at this time because it is an ongoing case, according to Choi.
Choi said Yanez was on patrol on July 6 just after 9 p.m. in Falcon Heights, a town that contracts with the St. Anthony Police Department, when he saw Castile’s vehicle. Castile was driving the car, while his girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, sat in the front passenger seat. Her 4-year-old daughter was in a car seat in the back.
Yanez “communicated his intent to pull over Castile’s vehicle” to the other officer, Joseph Kauser, by radio, saying that he had reason to pull over the car because the “occupants just look like the people that were involved in the robbery,” Choi said. Yanez said the driver looked like a suspect because of his “wide-set nose,” and added that he could stop the car because it had a non-working brake light.
Yanez followed Castile while waiting for Kauser to arrive as backup, Choi said. He ran Castile’s license plate at 9:02 p.m. and the results showed the car was registered to Castile, was not stolen and there were no warrants for him.
According to Choi, Yanez activated his squad lights about two minutes later, and Castile “immediately complied” by pulling over.
“Approximately one minute later, Officer Yanez shot Philando Castile seven times, killing him,” Choi said.
The dashcam video shows Yanez approaching Castile from the driver side. Yanez told investigators he was aware Castile was buckled into his seatbelt and saw a young child in the back seat and a female passenger in the front seat.
Yanez said Castile initially had both hands on the steering wheel, in view, Choi said. After telling him about the brake light issue, Yanez asked for his driver’s license and insurance, according to Choi. Castile gave him the insurance card and then “calmly and in a non-threatening manner informed Officer Yanez, ‘sir I have to tell you that I do have a firearm on me,'” Choi said.
Choi said Yanez replied, “OK,” and placed his hand on the holster of his gun before saying, “OK, don’t reach for it then.”
Castile tried to respond, and was interrupted by Yanez, who said “don’t pull it out,” according to Choi. Castile responded, “I’m not pulling it out,” and his girlfriend said the same thing. Yanez then screamed, “Don’t pull it out!” and drew his gun, Choi said. He then fired seven shots in rapid succession into the vehicle, Choi said.
Castile’s final words were, “I wasn’t reaching for it,” Choi said.
Reynolds began recording about 40 seconds after the shooting. You can watch the Facebook live video below (Warning: Graphic).
Yanez is not in custody. He is scheduled to make his first court appearance on Friday, and will turn himself in at that time, Choi said.
He faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison if convicted of manslaughter, and up to five years in prison if found guilty of dangerous discharge of a firearm.