A police officer from a St. Paul, Minnesota suburb was charged with negligent manslaughter and related weapon offenses Wednesday by the Ramsey County Attorney. The charges stem from an incident occurring this past July where officer Jeronimo Yanez fired seven shots into a car being driven by Philando Castile killing him.
The officer said Castile matched a robbery suspect based on his “wide nose” and that the tail lights were not legal. The incident was captured and streamed live on Facebook by Mr. Castile’s girlfriend who was a passenger in the car. The girl’s 4-year-old daughter was in the back seat and witnessed the fatal shooting.
The county attorney, John Choi, said at a press conference, “Unreasonable fear cannot justify the use of deadly force.” Choi chose not to submit the case to a grand jury and made the charging decision himself. Charges of this type have not been levied against a police officer in Minnesota in recent memory.
The Minneapolis Star Tribune reported that Yanez gave conflicting statements about what occurred, one to his local superiors, shortly after the incident, then to the state police the next day. The discrepancy was over whether Castile had been holding an object in his hand at the time of the shooting. In his initial statement he did not say Castile had a gun in his hand; the next day he stated that he was pulling a gun out “with his right hand.”
The death has prompted widespread protests in St Paul and is one of a series of deaths of black men and boys at the hands of police – which has fueled claims of institutionalized racism in the Twin Cities and around the country.
Meanwhile, Jurors hung up in a case against a white former police officer charged with murder in the fatal shooting of an unarmed black motorist and were leaning toward a lesser conviction, a prosecutor said Saturday after a mistrial was declared. Prosecutors will decide within the next two weeks whether to retry former University of Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing. He was fired after shooting 43-year-old Sam DuBose in the head after pulling him over for a missing front license plate on July 19, 2015.