Justice

The cop who killed Philando Castile is now facing criminal charges

Getty Images

Jeronimo Yanez, the police officer who shot and killed Philando Castile in the St. Paul suburb of Falcon Heights this past July, has been charged with second-degree manslaughter, Ramsey County attorney John Choi announced Wednesday morning.

Choi’s decision to press charges against Yanez came after a months-long process, during which he reportedly enlisted the help of both a special prosecutor, and national use-of-force experts to guide his investigation.

In addition, Yanez faces two felony counts of dangerous discharge of a firearm. He is due in court on November 18.

“To justify the use of deadly force, it is not enough…for the police officer to merely express a subjective fear of death or great bodily harm,” Choi explained during a press conference. “Unreasonable fear cannot justify the use of deadly force. The use of deadly force must be objectively reasonable and necessary, given the totality of the circumstances.”

Castile was shot by Yanez on July 6th, after having been pulled over while driving with his girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, and her four-year-old daughter. According to District Attorney Choi, Yanez indicated to a fellow officer that Castile’s “wide-set nose” matched the description of a suspect in a recent robbery. Castile was in possession of a licensed handgun at the time of his death. When announcing the charges against Yanez, Choi stated that Castile’s final words were “I wasn’t reaching for it.”

Castile’s death, much of which was broadcast live on Facebook by Reynolds, prompted massive protests and became one of the most infamous in a series of high profile police killings of black men.

“Would this have happened if those passengers, the driver were white?” Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton asked during a press conference in the days following Castile’s death. “I don’t think it would have.”

Following Choi’s announcement, St. Paul pastor Danny Givens, who has been active in the protests resulting from Castile’s death, spoke with Minnesota Public Radio’s Tom Webber. “Race does play a part in this,” Givens explained. “But I think it is the culture of policing that’s being challenged.”

“It is important to remember that we still must prove these allegations in court, and Officer Yanez is presumed innocent until he is found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt,” Choi cautioned the press. “I ask the public for its continued trust and patience as the court process moves forward and we strive to achieve justice for Philando Castile, his family and friends.”

Castile, a popular employee at a St. Paul elementary school, was days shy of his 33 birthday when he was killed.