National News

Officer who shot Philando Castile testifies

Posted June 9

Testimony ended Friday in the case against Jeronimo Yanez, a Minnesota police officer on trial for fatally shooting Philando Castile during a traffic stop in July 2016.

The aftermath of the shooting was streamed live on Facebook by Castile's girlfriend and the video went viral, sparking protests nationwide and renewing criticism of the use of deadly force by police, especially against African-American men.

On Friday, prosecutors tried to poke holes in the statements Yanez gave in the hours after the July 6 shooting.

After Yanez had confirmed earlier Friday for his defense attorneys that he thought Castile had a handgun in his right hand, specifically saying it looked like a Glock, prosecutor Richard Dusterhoft asked Yanez why he never told the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension that he thought he saw that kind of pistol.

Yanez responded that he "was under a tremendous amount of stress" in the hours and first couple days following the shooting.

"What goes through your mind when someone tells you they have a firearm?" Dusterhoft asked Yanez.

"It changes the dynamic of the traffic stop," Yanez responded.

Yanez, who worked for the St. Anthony, Minnesota, police department, is charged with second-degree manslaughter and two felony counts of dangerous discharge of a firearm.

When the traffic stop happened, Castile had told Yanez that he had a weapon, an audio recording of the encounter reveals, and Yanez told him not to reach for it. Seconds later, Yanez opened fire.

Castile died, insisting that he hadn't been reaching for his handgun. He had a permit to carry a firearm in his wallet; his girlfriend, sitting next to him, said he had been reaching for his ID in his back pocket when he was shot. Yanez has said he had no option but to shoot.

Ramsey County Attorney John Choi announced the charges against Yanez in November, saying that "no reasonable officer knowing, seeing and hearing what Officer Yanez did at the time would have used deadly force under these circumstances."

The incident was one of several similar shootings last summer: On July 5, Alton Sterling was shot and killed outside a convenience store in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, by police responding to a report of a man with a gun. A bystander filmed that deadly encounter.

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