On 16 June 2017, a St. Anthony, Minnesota police officer was acquitted on all counts in the shooting death of 32-year-old Philando Castile.
Officer Jeronimo Yanez had been charged with second-degree manslaughter and reckless discharge of a firearm for shooting and killing Castile during a 6 July 2016 traffic stop. Castile’s girlfriend, Lavish Reynolds, captured footage of Castile bleeding out after Yanez shot him — a video that brought the case into the spotlight amid an increase in protests criticizing excessive police force and extrajudicial killings, particularly against members of black communities in the United States.
Castile’s mother, Valerie Castile, said in a press conference after the verdict was announced:
Nevertheless the system continues to fail black people. And they will continue to fail you all. Like I said, because this happened with Philando when they get done with us they’re coming for you, for you, for you and all your interracial children. Y’all are next, and you’ll be standing up here fighting for justice just as well as I am. I am so disappointed in the state of Minnesota. My son loved this state. He had one tattoo on his body and it was of the Twin Cities — the state of Minnesota with “T.C.” on it. My son loved this city, and the city killed my son and the murderer gets away.
Yanez, who is Mexican-American, testified on 9 June 2017 that he saw Castile grab a gun near his right thigh despite being ordered not to reach for it. He said:
I thought I was going to die. I had no other choice. I was forced to engage Mr. Castile. He was not complying with my directions.
In the footage from the scene, Yanez could be heard saying, “I told him not to reach for it. I told him to keep his hand open.” Reynolds — who was in the car along with the couple’s 4-year-old daughter, who was in the backseat — replied, “He was just getting his license and registration, sir.” (A handgun was found at the scene, for which Castile had a permit under state law, and which Castile had already told the officer that he owned and had a license to carry.)
Rashad Robinson, executive director of the advocacy group Color of Change, said in a statement condemning the verdict that it is “an outrage” that Ramsey County Attorney John J. Choi did not obtain a conviction against Yanez:
Driving while Black is a crime punishable by death in America. That’s exactly what the jurors in the trial of Officer Jeronimo Yanez have decided today by issuing their not guilty verdict.
Following the announcement of the verdict, the city of St. Anthony said in a statement that Yanez would no longer work for local police there:
The City of St. Anthony has concluded that the public will be best served if Officer Yanez is no longer a police officer in our city. The city intends to offer Officer Yanez a voluntary separation agreement to help him transition to another career other than being a St. Anthony officer. The terms of this agreement will be negotiated in the near future, so details are not available at this time. In the meantime, Officer Yanez will not return to active duty.
Castile’s death was the impetus for Black Lives Matter demonstrations around the Twin Cities area that mirrored protests following the deaths of Alton Sterling, Michael Brown, and others at the hands of police.
Gov. Mark Dayton (D), who ordered an investigation into the incident, said in a statement following Yanez’s acquittal that activists and police working together “can make the changes necessary to secure both safety and justice” in the state.
He also expressed his condolences toward Castile’s family, saying:
Minnesotans continue to grieve with them, for their horrible loss. Mr. Castile’s death was a terrible tragedy, with devastating consequences for everyone involved. I will continue to do all I can to help our state heal.