July 10, 2017
A Minnesota police officer who fatally shot popular cafeteria employee, Philando Castile, 32, during a traffic stop in 2016 was acquitted on all charges by a jury in June 2017. Officer Jeronimo Yanez pulled Castile over in a suburb of Minneapolis, claiming he believed that Castile matched the description of a robbery suspect.
Yanez thought that his life was in danger and fired into the car when he believed that Castile, was reaching for a gun, a claim disputed by the driver’s girlfriend, who was also in the car at the time. Stating that “no reasonable officer” would have used deadly force in those circumstances, prosecutors charged him with second-degree manslaughter and two felony counts for intentionally discharging the gun.
Following a leave after the trial, Yanez will not be returning to the St. Anthony Police Department. Instead, the city intends to offer him a voluntary separation agreement and help him transition into another career.
Jurors also heard testimony from dozens of witnesses during the trial, including Diamond Reynolds, Castile’s girlfriend, who calmly testified what happened after he was shot. She filmed herself on her phone, stating that Castile had a conceal-and-carry permit and that he had duly notified the officer of that fact before reaching for his wallet in the glove compartment. Seconds later, the officer told him not to pull out the gun despite Castile’s response that he was not reaching for the weapon.
Castile’s relatives denounced the jury’s decision outside the court while a small group of protesters gathered. She tied the verdict to what she described as systemic racism in Minnesota, calling it murder. According to the Minnesota State Patrol, roughly 500 protesters gathered on the interstate after the verdict, closing it to traffic, and 18 protesters had been arrested by early the next morning.
Despite the unfavorable jury ruling in the case for Castile’s family, they will still have the opportunity to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the St. Anthony Police Department and Officer Yanez.
John Rosenbaum is an Orange County Personal Injury and Worker’s Compensation attorney that has over three decades of experience fighting for the people of California.