The Minnesota police officer who shot and killed Philando Castile as he sat in a car with his girlfriend and her four-year-old daughter officially pled not guilty to charges of second degree manslaughter in a courtroom on Monday.
St. Anthony Police Department Officer Jeronimo Yanez, 28, also stands accused of two felony counts of dangerous discharge of a firearm stemming from the July 2016 killing. He is currently on leave from the department.
According to local ABC affiliate KTSP, St. Anthony Police Chief Jon Mangseth was in attendance during Monday's hearing, as was Castile's mother Valerie, and his friend John Thompson, who told reporters "I don't want to say anything to jeopardize the proceedings. That's [Yanez's] right to plead not guilty."
Castile's shooting, the immediate aftermath of which was streamed live on Facebook by his girlfriend Diamond Reynolds, set off days of intense protests across the Twin Cities. Alongside the deaths of Alton Sterling, and Keith Scott, Castile's death became one of that summer's most visible instances of police violence against black men.
In mid-February, Ramsey County District Court Judge William Leary III ruled against a request by Yanez's attorneys to dismiss the charges against their client. Lawyers for the police officer reportedly argued that Yanez feared for his life during the traffic stop that left Castile dead, and was justified in shooting the 32-year-old school cafeteria worker to death. Castile was carrying a licensed pistol at the time.
Yanez is reportedly due back in court for his next hearing on April 3. His trial is set to begin May 30.