ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) – After days of deliberation, a jury has found Jeronimo Yanez, the St. Anthony police officer who fatally shot Philando Castile during a traffic stop last summer, not guilty of second-degree manslaughter in the school cafeteria worker’s death.
Four days after attorney’s made closing arguments, a jury decided Friday that the 29-year-old police officer was not guilty of “culpable negligence” in Castile’s death. The officer would’ve faced up to a decade in prison.
He was also found not guilty of two counts of endangerment by intentionally shooting a firearm, one count relating to Castille’s girlfriend Diamond Reynolds, and the other pertaining to her child, who was sitting in the back seat.
Yanez, who is Latino, shot Castile five times in July during a traffic stop in Falcon Heights. The shooting happened just seconds after Castile, 32, informed the officer that he had a gun, which he had a permit to carry. Reynolds testified Yanez had asked for Castile’s license and registration, and Castile was reaching for his wallet when Yanez fired seven shots into the vehicle.
In closing arguments Monday, prosecutors argued that Yanez never saw Castile’s gun and should not have shot him even if he had.
The defense, on the other hand, maintained that Yanez acted in self-defense and argued that the shooting wouldn’t have happened if Castile wasn’t high on marijuana.
After the verdict was read, Judge Glenda Hatchett — who is the attorney for the Castile family — and Philando Castile’s mother Valerie praised Ramsey County Attorney John Choi’s office for their prosecution in the case. Valerie Castile shared some impassioned words outside of the courthouse:
Ramsey County Attorney Choi held a news conference Friday evening and said while he’s disappointed, the jury’s verdict must be respected:
Less than an hour after the verdict was read, the St. Anthony Police Department released a statement saying, “the public will be best served if Officer Yanez is no longer a police officer in our city.” The statement said the department will be working to negotiate a separation agreement with Yanez soon.
Demonstrators now plan to hold a rally at the Minnesota State Capitol. The rally was scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. Friday afternoon, more than 900 people had responded to the event.
The July 6 shooting gained national attention after Reynolds live-streamed the bloody aftermath on Facebook, prompting protests in the Twin Cities and beyond.
During deliberations Tuesday, the jury asked to rewatch Reynolds’ Facebook live-stream, as well as squad car video of the shooting. Both were played.
On Wednesday, just after 9 a.m., the judge called court into session because the jury had noticed two evidence bags had become partially unsealed. Those bags contained the shorts and holster Castile was wearing the night of the shooting, considered a biohazard because they had been covered in blood. Those bags were resealed and given back to the jury so they could continue deliberations.
Later Wednesday, the jury appeared to have hit an impasse. Judge William Leary reread his deliberation instructions, telling them not to surrender their “honest opinion.”
The 12-member jury included two black people, and the remainder were white.