On June 16th in St. Anthony, Minnesota, police officer Jeronimo Yanez was acquitted of second-degree manslaughter charges related to the fatal shooting of Philando Castile. Before determining the verdict, the jury was given access to the transcript of the events leading up to the shooting. A summary of the transcript can be seen below.
Castile was pulled over at 9:05 P.M. and Yanez approached the vehicle on the driver’s side shortly after. Yanez and Castile greeted each other, and Yanez proceeded to tell Castile about his malfunctioning brake light. During their conversation, another police officer named Joseph Kauser arrived as backup and approached the vehicle from the passenger’s side. Yanez then asked Castile for his driver’s license and proof of insurance, and Castile complied by giving the officer his insurance card.
After Yanez looked at Castile’s insurance information, Castile informed the officers that he had a firearm on his person. Before Castile could finish his sentence, Yanez interrupted him with the word “okay” and promptly placed his hand on his holster. Yanez told Castile not to reach for his weapon, to which Castile responded with, “I’m…I’m… [inaudible]…reaching.” Yanez interrupted again, repeating to Castile not to pull out his weapon. Castile and his girlfriend Reynolds then both confirmed that Castile was not pulling the gun out. Yanez then screamed at Castile, once again telling him not to pull the gun out. At this time, Yanez pulled his own gun from its holster and rapidly fired seven shots at Castile while Kauser remained motionless.
After the shooting, Castile’s last words were, “I wasn’t reaching for it.” Reynolds then reaffirmed that Castile was indeed not reaching for the gun. Yanez yelled again, repeating the same phrase used earlier, “Don’t pull it out.” Reynolds replied with, “He wasn’t,” and Yanez yelled at her not to move.
It is believed by some that Castile was shot without reason, even after doing everything that Yanez asked of him. Yanez’s response to Castile’s gun-carrying confession is under some scrutiny since Yanez could have asked to see Castile’s carry permit or asked where the gun was rather than telling him not to reach for it.
Under Yanez’s instruction, Castile had to simultaneously produce his driver’s license and not reach for his weapon. The movements to reach for either one of these items are very similar and one can easily be confused for the other. When Castile was reaching for his license, Yanez likely believed that he was trying to pull out his firearm.
From the transcript, it is clear that Yanez feared for his life during the encounter. Yanez testified that he believed that he had pulled over a robber and that he smelled marijuana in the car. These factors, along with the fact that Castile had a firearm, may have put Yanez on edge.
Many believe that the presence of a firearm does not inherently make a situation more dangerous for police officers and that the danger posed by a firearm is largely dependent on the carrier. Those who have a concealed-carry permit, for instance, are among one of the most law-abiding demographics in the United States.
Within the past few months, there have been a few cases where police officers have been excused for shooting citizens by mistake such as with Yanez and Castile. Many of these shootings occurred because the citizen was exercising their second amendment right to carry a firearm and the police did not know how to adequately handle the situation. For whatever reason, Yanez panicked and made a mistake that ended up being fatal for Castile. Some still believe that Yanez should be held accountable for that mistake and that his acquittal was an affront to justice.