St. Anthony Police Department Officer Jeronimo Yanez who fatally shot Philando Castile during a traffic stop was acquitted on all charges by a jury Friday, a decision that came eleven-and-a-half-months after the encounter was partially streamed of Facebook Live for all to see, one day after the shooting death of Alton Sterling in the midst of a painful reckoning over summary executions of African-Americans by law enforcement.
Th jury made up of 1 black male, 1 black female, 5 white females, 8 white men found Yanez not guilty of second-degree manslaughter Friday for shooting and killing Philando Castile, a 32-year-old black motorist, and school cafeteria worker, in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, on Wednesday, July 6, 2016. He was also found not guilty of two counts of dangerous discharge of a firearm.
The verdict marked the end of five days of jury deliberation in the case, which was tried in nearby St. Paul by prosecuting attorney Jeffrey Paulsen. A conviction would have carried the possibility of up to 10 years in prison for Yanez.
During the trial, jurors heard testimony from dozens of witnesses, including Yanez, a police officer with St. Anthony, who cried on the stand while saying he did not want to shoot Castile.
During his testimony, Yanez reiterated what he told investigators who probed the shooting, saying he thought his life was in danger at the time. Attorneys for Yanez have argued that Castile caused his own death because of his actions during the traffic stop.
Castile was one of 963 people who police officers fatally shot last year, according to a Washington Post database tracking such shootings. The fatal encounter in Minnesota was among the most high-profile last year because Diamond Reynolds, Castile’s girlfriend, broadcast the moments after Castile’s shooting on Facebook Live, graphic footage that quickly spread online and drew international attention to the Twin Cities suburbs.
In the courtroom on Friday, people could be heard cursing as the verdict was read, and one woman sobbed. Castile’s mother, Valerie Castile, abruptly left the court after the announcement and before court was formally dismissed.
The shooting in the St. Paul suburb of Falcon Heights, like similar incidents across the United States, fueled public debate about the appropriate use of force by law enforcement against minorities.