ST. PAUL, Minn. (KMSP) - Ramsey County Attorney John Choi has charged St. Anthony Police Officer Jeronimo Yanez with second-degree manslaughter in the July 6 shooting death of Philando Castile. Choi concluded the use of deadly force was not justified.
“Based upon our thorough and exhaustive review of the facts, I have come to the conclusion that there simply was no justification for the use of deadly force by Officer Yanez in this case," said Ramsey County Attorney John Choi. "No reasonable officer who knew, saw, and heard what Officer Yanez did at the time would have used deadly force under these circumstances.”
“I ask for the public’s continued patience, trust and respect for the integrity of the process as we prosecute this case and seek justice for Philando Castile, his family and friends, including Diamond Reynolds and her daughter, and our broader community.” Choi said.
Philando Castile, 32, was shot and killed by St. Anthony Police Officer Jeronimo Yanez during a traffic stop in Falcon Heights on July 6. The aftermath of the fatal shooting was broadcast on Facebook Live by his girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, who was a passenger in Castile’s vehicle. In the video stream, Reynolds says they were pulled over for a broken tail light.
She says Castile let Officer Yanez know he had a permit to carry a firearm, and that he was reaching for his ID and wallet when he was shot. According to the criminal complaint, a valid driver's license and valid permit to carry a firearm was recovered from Castile by investigators at the scene.
7 shots fired
Prosecutors emphasized that 7 shots fired into the vehicle, in close proximity of Reynolds and her child. Jeffery Noble, an expert on police procedure consulted by the prosecutor, said the use of deadly force was “objectively unreasonable and was inconsistent with generally accepted police practices.”
Friday court appearance
Officer Yanez will make his first court appearance Friday. Yanez was charged with second-degree manslaughter because it’s the highest level charge prosecutors feel they can convict on. Choi asked for public's continued trust, adding that Officer Yanez is innocent until proven guilty.
In Minnesota, second-degree manslaughter carries a maximum prison sentence of 10 years.
Second-degree manslaughter - culpable negligence creating unreasonable risk, for the shooting of Philando Castile.
Dangerous weapons - Intentional discharge of firearm that endangers safety, for the firing of his gun near Diamond Reynolds.
Dangerous weapons - Intentional discharge of firearm that endangers safety, for the firing of his gun near Reynolds’ 4-year-old daughter.
Prosecutor: Don't blame Castile
To those who blame Philando Castile for the deadly outcome, Choi said, “don't," emphasizing that no other reasonable police officer in a similar situation would have used deadly force.
Why Yanez stopped Castile
According to the criminal complaint: “Yanez communicated his intent to pull over Castile’s vehicle by radio to St. Anthony Police Officer Joseph Kauser who was on patrol nearby. Yanez told Kauser that he had reason to pull the vehicle over and that the occupants ‘just look like the people that were involved in a robbery.’ Yanez further stated that ‘the driver looks more like one of our suspects just because of the wide set nose.’ Yanez noted that he also had reason to stop the vehicle because it had a non-working brake light. Yanez followed Castile’s vehicle, waiting until Kauser arrived as backup.”
The robbery of the Super USA in Lauderdale that Officer Yanez referred to remains unsolved, but the investigation into that case has ruled out Castile as a suspect. Video of a robbery, committed in Blaine after the time of Castile’s death shows a suspect whose physical features resemble the suspect from the Lauderdale robbery, and displaying gun that appears to be the same gun used in the Lauderdale robbery, which appears different from Castile’s gun.
Timeline of Philando Castile shooting
JULY 7, 10 AM - Governor: 'Justice will be served in Minnesota'
JULY 7, 9:50 PM - Police officers identified in fatal shooting of Philando Castile
JULY 8, 10:30 AM - Prosecutor considering grand jury in Philando Castile shooting
JULY 9, 8 PM - Protest shuts down Interstate 94 in St. Paul
JULY 26-27 - 70 protesters arrested at Governor's Residence
JULY 27 - Falcon Heights hosts listening session
SEPT. 28 - BCA sends Castile case to prosecutor
City of Falcon Heights statement
The City of Falcon Heights respects the decision of the County Attorney to pursue criminal prosecution of Officer Yanez based on findings from the State’s Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.
We have heard concerns since the shooting of Mr. Castile from residents and non-residents about issues involving current law enforcement procedures in our community and we will continue to work diligently to review and address those concerns.
We have and will continue to have frank discussions with leaders from the City of St. Anthony Village about those procedures, and work with the City to develop a plan to address them.
Along with the cities of St. Anthony Village and Lauderdale, Falcon Heights will continue to be a part of the tri-city workgroup to review the use of officer worn body cameras. Falcon Heights has also established an Inclusion and Policing Task Force. The Task Force will address the topics of police policies, procedures, and training.
Our goals are to unify our community around a plan to address the concerns we have heard since this tragic incident, and to work to restore trust between law enforcement officers, and the residents and city visitors whom they serve.
Village of St. Anthony statement
The City has seen the announcement that the Ramsey County Attorney is charging Officer Jeronimo Yanez in the tragic death of Philando Castile. We are unaware of any additional facts beyond those that have been publicly reported. We have confidence that justice will be served. Out of respect for the judicial process, the City intends to refrain from making any comments that could hinder a fair and impartial determination. We reaffirm our commitment to help heal this painful community experience through community engagement and continuous efforts to create positive change.
St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman’s statement
“I have tremendous respect for County Attorney John Choi. He has made one of the hardest decisions a prosecutor has to make. While I have not reviewed the evidence he and his team analyzed, I am confident that his decision was grounded in a thorough investigation of the facts and a deep commitment to upholding his public responsibility. His willingness to be personally responsible for this decision—and to set forth the basis for it— is indicative of his intellect and integrity.
“I also want, once again, to extend my deepest sympathies to the Castile family. Nothing about this decision will ease their pain or redeem their loss. We will continue to hold them in our thoughts as this process moves forward.”
Saint Paul Public Schools statement
Saint Paul Public Schools continues to grieve the death of Philando Castile. Today’s announcement by County Attorney John Choi, that he has filed criminal charges against the police officer who shot Mr. Phil, brings another wave of sadness to the community at J. J. Hill Montessori and throughout the school district.
The people who knew Mr. Phil, and especially the students at J. J. Hill Montessori, send their love and prayers for patience and peace to his family and friends.