Key developments in Minnesota officer’s manslaughter trial
ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — The manslaughter trial of a Minnesota police officer who shot and killed a black motorist last summer will resume Monday with closing arguments.
Officer Jeronimo Yanez shot and killed Philando Castile during a traffic stop last July in the Minneapolis suburb of Falcon Heights. Castile’s girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, streamed the immediate aftermath live on Facebook, which brought the case extra attention.
Here are some highlights of the case:
Yanez killed Castile after pulling him over for a broken taillight July 6. After Yanez approached the car, Castile informed him that he was carrying a gun. Squad car video shows him saying, “Sir, I have to tell you, I do have a firearm on me.”
Things escalated quickly from there, with Yanez opening fire five seconds later and striking the 32-year-old cafeteria worker with five of the seven shots he fired.
Reynolds then pulled out her phone and began livestreaming and narrating.
Yanez, who is Latino, is charged with second-degree manslaughter, which is punishable by up to 10 years in prison, and two lesser counts of endangering the safety of Reynolds and her daughter for firing his gun into the car near them.
Prosecutors called several witnesses to try to show Yanez acted recklessly and unreasonably.
They repeatedly played the squad car video and pointed out that Yanez never told Castile to “freeze” or stop moving.
Prosecution experts testified that if they were told a driver had a gun, they would order him to put his hands on the steering wheel or dashboard, which Yanez did not do.
Jeffrey Noble, a use-of-force expert, testified there was “absolutely no reason” to believe Castile was a threat.
The defense said that Yanez, 29, reacted to the presence of a gun and was trained to preserve his own life in the face of imminent danger, pointing out that traffic stops are dangerous and officers need to think quickly. They also suggested that Castile was partly to blame for his death because he was high on marijuana, which prosecutors dispute, and that he disobeyed Yanez’s instructions.
The defense’s own use-of-force experts said they think Yanez was right to shoot.
GIRLFRIEND A KEY WITNESS
Reynolds testified that she began recording the aftermath because she feared for her life and wanted to make sure the truth was known.
Defense attorneys highlighted inconsistencies in what is said on her video and in statements later to police. Was Castile putting his hands up, like she said in her video, or was it just one hand? Was he reaching for his wallet or unbuckling his seat belt? And was that wallet in his right or left back pocket?
She also told several different stories about marijuana in the car, first saying it was hers, later saying in an interview that she and Castile bought it earlier that day, and finally testifying that it was Castile who bought it, not her.
THE OFFICER’S OWN WORDS
After he shot Castile, Yanez is heard on squad car video telling a supervisor variously that he didn’t know where Castile’s gun was, then that he told Castile to get his hand off it. He told investigators he saw Castile’s hand form a C-shaped grip of the sort to grab a thick-gripped pistol. Yanez’s backup testified that Yanez told him he saw a gun.
Yanez testified Friday that he clearly saw a gun and that Castile ignored his commands to stop pulling it out of his pocket. His voice choked with emotion as he talked of being “scared to death” and thinking of his wife and baby daughter in the split-second before he fired.
As for the recording in which he said he didn’t know where the gun was, he explained, “What I meant by that was I didn’t know where the gun was up until I saw it in his right thigh area.”
Defense attorneys also argued that Castile was high on marijuana. But a prosecution expert testified there’s no way to tell when Castile last smoked marijuana or whether he was high.