MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – A Republican state representative from southern Minnesota posted on his Facebook page an image of himself and two others wearing T-shirts in support Jeronimo Yanez, the St. Anthony officer who fatally shot Philando Castile earlier this month.
Rep. Tony Cornish, of Vernon Center, posted the image to his Facebook feed overnight Wednesday, with the caption: “Support Due Process for All. Don’t Pre-Judge!!”
In the photo, Cornish, a retired 32-year peace officer who’s also the chair of the House Public Safety and Crime Prevention Committee, appears to be wearing a black T-shirt with white lettering that says “Police Deserve Due Process.” On his left, two other men are wearing similar shirts, with messages reading “Justice For Jeronimo” and “Stop The Rush To Judgement.”
Yanez, 28, fatally shot Castile during a traffic stop on July 6 in Falcon Heights, a suburb of St. Paul. The aftermath of the shooting was live-streamed on Facebook, sparking protests in Minnesota and across the nation.
Gov. Mark Dayton suggested shortly after Castile’s death that the shooting was motivated, at least in part, by racism. In a responding letter to fellow Republicans in support of police, Cornish said that the governor’s remarks were made only to “please certain people.”
Castile’s death remains under investigation by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. Yanez’s lawyer says the 28-year-old officer, who is Latino, reacted because Castile, who was licensed to carry, had a gun – not his race.
In a letter to the Star Tribune published before the Castile shooting, Cornish gave advice to readers on how to safely interact with police. Among the tips are “don’t be a thug,” “don’t hang out on the street after 2 a.m.,” and “don’t flap your jaws when the police arrive.”
The letter was criticized by Nekima Levy-Pounds, the head of the Minneapolis NAACP, as “racist” and “outrageous.” Cornish told WCCO that he was only trying to defend police against unfair attacks.
In the wake of the Castile shooting – as well as the fatal shooting of Alton Sterling, a black man in Louisiana a day earlier – police were targeted and killed in shootings in Texas and Louisiana. Five officers were killed in a July 7 attack in Dallas; 3 officers were killed in Baton Rouge on July 17.