The Minnesota police officer who shot and killed Philando Castile as he sat during a traffic stop was charged Wednesday 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 Friday, according to CNN.
“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,” Ramsey County Attorney John Choi said Wednesday in announcing the charges.
The immediate aftermath of Castile’s July 6 death was captured on film and live-streamed on Facebook by his fiancée, Diamond Reynolds. Her 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, set off nationwide protests over the relationship between law enforcement and the communities they serve.
Castile, 32, told the officer he was legally carrying a gun 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.
Yanez’s side of the story is partly given in the criminal complaint posted on the Ramsey County Attorney’s website. The officer was interviewed July 7 by investigators and gave an account of the shooting.
Yanez said Castile told him he had a gun at the same time he reached down between his right leg and the center console of the vehicle, the complaint said. “And he put his hand around something,” Yanez was quoted as saying. He said Castile’s hand took a C-shape, “like putting my hand up to the butt of the gun.”
Yanez said he then lost view of Castile’s hand.
“I know he had an object and it was dark,” he said. “And he was pulling it out with his right hand. And as he was pulling it out, a million things started going through my head. And I thought I was gonna die.”
Yanez said he thought Castile had the gun in his right hand and he had “no option” but to shoot, the complaint said.
“I don’t remember the first couple shots. I believe I remember the last two shots. And I believe one of the shots went into his left arm. … I remember smelling the gun smoke and the bright flashes from the muzzle.”
But Choi noted at the news conference that Yanez told other officers immediately after the shooting that he didn’t know where Castile’s gun was located.
Reynolds, Castile’s fiancée, was quoted on the video as saying Castile was reaching for his driver’s license.
Castile’s mother, Valerie Castile, said Wednesday that she’s happy the officer is being prosecuted and hopes there’s no community unrest.
“We want peace,” she said. “We don’t want any protests to get outrageous.”
Family lawyer Glenda Hatchett said the case is historic because, as far as she can determine, this is the first time a Minnesota law enforcement officer has been charged in the fatal shooting of a citizen.
“We see this as a stake in the ground,” she said. ” We are intending for this case to send a loud message that things must change in this country.”