US: Police Officer Shoots African-American Man and is Acquitted of Manslaughter Charges
US media are reporting that Minnesota police officer Jeronimo Yanez was acquitted of all charges on Friday 16 June 2017 in the shooting death of Philando Castile, a 32-year old African American man, on 6 July 2016. Footage of the incident retrieved from the dashboard camera of Yanez’s police car was released to the public on Tuesday 20 June 2017.
The shooting of Castile was yet another incident sparking more national debate about police conduct towards African Americans. That debate has been ongoing since the death of Michael Brown in 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri sparked riots and heavy media coverage.
Video footage of the incident shows Castile warning the officer that he has a firearm and is licensed to carry. The New York Times reported that, “Officer Yanez testified that he feared Mr. Castile was grabbing for the gun, but Mr. Castile’s girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, said he had merely been reaching for his identification to give the officer.”
Reynolds released a livestream of the violent encounter on her Facebook page, but 20 June was the first time the public could see the footage from the officer’s dashboard camera. After mentioning his firearm, Castile then says he is not drawing it, and Officer Yanez responds by yelling, “Don’t pull it out!”
The Guardian reported that “The officer reaches his left arm into the vehicle, screaming, while he draws his weapon with his right hand and, all in one motion, fires seven bullets into the vehicle, killing Castile.” Reynolds' four-year-old daughter was also in the car.
Reynolds was then handcuffed and placed in the back seat of a police car with her daughter. Footage from the back seat was released to the public on Wednesday 21 June 2017.
That video shows Reynolds’ four-year-old daughter fearfully saying “I don’t want you to get shooted” while her mother screams. CNN reports that Reynolds and Castile had been dating on and off for about three years and were living together.
At the time of his death, Castile was caring and helping provide for Reynolds' daughter. His shooting left the family wondering what they would do next.
The backseat video footage also shows the four-year-old saying “I wish this town was safer.” The Atlantic magazine reported that “During the trial, the jurors—two of whom were black and ten of whom were white—debated whether Yanez had demonstrated ‘culpable negligence’ by shooting Castile.”
The jury acquitted Officer Yanez of second-degree manslaughter and all other charges. However, after his acquittal, the City of St. Anthony released a statement saying that Yanez had been fired from the police force and would not be allowed to return to active duty.
The footage of Officer Yanez from his dashboard camera shows him stating that is pulling Castile over because he has a broken brake light. The New York Times, however, has reported that Officer Yanez thought Castile matched the description of a robbery suspect due to his wide-set nose.
Officer Yanez radioed a colleague, waited for him to arrive on the scene, then approached Castile’s car. During the investigation, Officer Yanez also described how he smelled marijuana coming from Castile's car, which increased his fear and suspicion that Castile could be a wanted man.
The release of the video footage has once again sparked debate inthe United States about the disproportionate use of force, including lethal force, against African Americans. The Huffington Post reports that Castile's loss devastated his colleagues, family, friends, and "395 adoring students at the Saint Paul, Minnesota, elementary school where he worked."
Philando Castile's mother: "I'm mad as hell right now." pic.twitter.com/pLNHsq1H85— Philip Lewis (@Phil_Lewis_) 16. června 2017
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