A jury in Ramsey County, MN on Friday found St. Anthony Police Officer Jeronimo Yanez not guilty of second-degree manslaughter for the July, 2016 shooting death of St. Paul Public Schools employee Philando Castile.
The jury’s decision concluded five days of deliberations. At one point during the week, jurors informed Judge William H. Leary III that they were deadlocked, and we instructed to continue deliberating.
By the end of Yanez’s trial, jurors—just two of whom were black—were tasked with deciding between two narratives over Castile’s death: one in which Castile contributed to his own killing by failing to comply with police orders during a routine traffic stop, and the other, in which his death was caused by Yanez panicking during the encounter.
Castile, a St. Paul Public Schools employee, was shot by Yanez during a traffic stop on July 6, 2016 in the St. Paul suburb of Falcon Heights. According to Yanez’ attorney, Castile had been pulled over because he loosely matched the description of suspects wanted for a recent robbery. In police audio taken just before the shooting, an officer can be heard saying “the driver looks like one of our suspects because of the wide-set nose.”
According to Castile’s girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, Castile told the officer that he was licensed to carry and that he had his gun on him.
“Then [Yanez] started shooting,” Reynolds added.
A St. Paul native, Castile, know as “Cheddar” to friends, had been a longtime cafeteria employee at St. Paul’s JJ Hill Montessori magnet school. There, he was described as “smart” and “over-qualified” by one of his coworkers. Speaking with the Star Tribune, Castile’s uncle, Clarence Castile, described Philando as “a good man” who cooked “for the little kids.”
“He was a great guy,” Kathy Holmquist-Burks, the former JJ Hill principal who hired Castile, explained. “And a humble and loving person.”
In addition to the not guilty verdict, jurors also found Yanez not guilty on two counts of “dangerous discharge of a weapon,” for the danger in which Yanez placed Reynolds and her daughter when the officer opened fire.
Castile’s shooting—the immediate aftermath of which Reynolds streamed live on Facebook—prompted outrage across the country, resulting in mass protests outside of Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton’s St. Paul residence. Dayton later told reporters that “racism exists” and confessed that he did not believe Castile would have been shot if he wasn’t black.
Update, 4:17 PM: Speaking to reporters outside the Ramsey County Courthouse, Castile’s mother, Valerie angrily castigated the judicial system for Yanez acquittal.
“I will continue to say murdered,” Castile exclaimed, pointedly refusing to use the term “manslaughter.”
“I am so disappointed in the state of Minnesota,” she added later. “My son loved this state.”
Castile’s sister also spoke out.
Glenda Hatchett, an attorney who represents Castile’s mother, also expressed her profound disappointment over the verdict, warning that “If Philando could die under these circumstances, let’s be clear, each of you could die under these circumstances.”
Update, 4:40 PM: Diamond Reynolds, whose livestream of the aftermath of the shooting shocked the world, issued the following statement after Yanez’s acquittal:
Update 5:00 PM: Shortly after the “not guilty” verdict was declared, the city of St. Anthony announced plans to dismiss Yanez from their police force.