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Minn. Police Officer Faces Felony Charges In Death Of Philando Castile


A Minnesota police officer is facing manslaughter and other charges in connection with the fatal shooting of an African-American driver last summer. Prosecutors say Officer Jeronimo Yanez shot and killed Philando Castile during a traffic stop in a St. Paul suburb. As Matt Sepic of Minnesota Public Radio reports, this is the first time in state history that a police officer has been charged in the shooting death of a civilian.

MATT SEPIC, BYLINE: Ramsey County Attorney John Choi says that just after 9:00 p.m. on July 6, Yanez pulled over Castile's car after telling a fellow officer that the driver's wide-set nose matched the description of a robbery suspect and the car had a non-working brake light.

Citing a dash cam recording that he has declined to make public, Choi says Castile complied fully with the officer's requests and wasn't resisting or fleeing. Choi says Castile had a permit to carry a gun and told the officer that.


JOHN CHOI: Castile then calmly and in a non-threatening manner informed Officer Yanez, Sir, I have to tell you that I do have a firearm on me.

SEPIC: Yanez said, OK, don't reach for it then. Castile tried to tell Yanez that he was not pulling out the gun. Nevertheless, Yanez screamed, don't pull it out and un-holstered his own firearm before firing seven shots into the vehicle.

Watching from the passenger seat was Castile's girlfriend Diamond Reynolds, who streamed the immediate aftermath live on Facebook. Sitting in the back seat was Reynold's 4-year-old daughter. Yanez told investigators he feared for his life. Choi charged Yanez with second degree manslaughter and two felony counts of dangerous discharge of a firearm.


CHOI: Unreasonable fear cannot justify the use of deadly force.

SEPIC: Choi says paramedics found Castile's .40 caliber handgun in his pocket with no round in the chamber and no evidence he ever tried to draw the gun. A second officer at the scene who was cleared of any wrongdoing said he was surprised when Yanez drew his gun and fired. The decision to prosecute brought tears from Castile's supporters and praise from his mother, Valerie.

VALERIE CASTILE: We all hope and pray that the right thing is done in this issue.

SEPIC: John Lozoya with the Minnesota Latino Peace Officers Association is concerned about all the attention the case is getting.

JOHN LOZOYA: All I just ask is that the public wait until the trial is over where he is judged by his peers and that he has received a fair and impartial trial.

SEPIC: Yanez is scheduled to make his first court appearance Friday. Meanwhile, Valerie Castile ask that any protests be peaceful and that the public be patient as the legal process moves forward. For NPR News, I'm Matt Sepic in Minneapolis. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Matt Sepic