For the first time since the incident occurred, the police squad car video was released of the fatal shooting of Philando Castile. The jurors in the trial of police officer Jeronimo Yanez were able to see the events that lead up to Castile’s death.
St. Anthony Police Officer Jeronimo Yanez’s trial began almost a week ago. Yanez is accused of manslaughter in the death of Philando Castile, the man whose slaying was made infamous by the live video his girlfriend started moments after he was shot. State prosecutors began their opening statements by showing the video of the July 6, 2016 shooting. The interaction between Castile and Yanez was brief before the shooting.
Many were quick to jump to Yanez’s defense for the sole reason that he was a police officer. The video, unfortunately for Yanez, validates the story of Castile’s girlfriend. According to KARE 11, the events in the video unfolded as such:
Yanez walks up to the vehicle and tells Castile he has a brake light that’s out before asking for his license and insurance. Castile hands over his insurance card and tells Yanez, “Sir, I do have to tell you I have a firearm,” to which Yanez replies, “OK, don’t reach for it then.” According to KARE 11 reporter Lou Raguse, the next few moments happen very quickly. Castile attempts to tell the officer he’s not reaching for it then Yanez says, “Don’t pull it out,” and a second later, shots are fired. A total of seven shots are fired as Yanez stands next to the vehicle, gun pointed into the window and repeats, “don’t move” several times.
Within a few seconds, Castile’s girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, begins her Facebook Live video.
Lou Raguse also said that what stuck out to him was the reaction from the second officer. Since nothing appeared to have happened to warrant a shooting, the other officer reacted in a startled manner.
One thing that struck me is how visibly startled the other officer on the passenger side looked when the shots started. He jumped
— Lou Raguse (@LouRaguse) June 5, 2017
In his opening statements, the prosecutor said Castile took two shots to the heart. He then emphasized Castile’s final words, “I wasn’t reaching for it.”
“He [Yanez] didn’t tell him to freeze,” said Assistant Ramsey County Attorney Richard Dusterhoft. “He didn’t tell him to put his hands up. It was Officer Yanez’s negligence from the traffic stop he chose to make that caused Mr. Castile’s death.” Although the squad car video has yet to be released to the public, it certainly adds credence to the fact that Yanez acted negligently causing Castile’s death.
Castile was killed in front of his four-year-old daughter.
The defense spent longer in their opening statements than did the prosecution, who has the video on their side. They stated that the entire debacle happened too quickly and that, “Castile’s inability to follow commands is unfortunately timeless here.” They asked the jury to remember the line, “OK don’t reach for it then,” saying it shows Yanez believed Castile was reaching for his gun.
Defense Attorney Paul Engh also said in his opening statement that Yanez didn’t just believe Castile was reaching for his gun, but that he saw him begin to pull the gun out before he fired those seven shots into the car. But that narrative allegedly falls apart when watching the squad car video. Castile clearly tells the officer he has a gun. It would make little to no sense to declare that you’re about to draw your weapon.
While Judge William Leary III will allow prosecutors to inform jurors about Castile’s legal carrying status, he will also allow defense attorneys to argue that Castile obtained it illegally because he lied about his drug use on the application. (Castile had used marijuana shortly before the traffic stop.)
Without personally seeing the squad car video, conclusions are difficult to draw. But, based on the witness accounts of reporters covering the trial, the video certainly is going to be an asset to the prosecution.
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