Attorney: Officer 'did what he had to do' in driver shooting

Claudine Rigal
Juin 19, 2017

Prosecutor Jeff Paulsen highlighted autopsy evidence in his closing argument in the trial of officer Jeronimo Yanez, who fatally shot Philando Castile just seconds after pulling his vehicle over last July in a St. Paul suburb.

St. Anthony Police Department officer Jeronimo Yanez was charged with second-degree manslaughter after he shot and killed Philando Castile, 32, in July in an incident that drew national attention and led to weeks of protests in St. Paul and Minneapolis.

Now, a jury must decide whether Yanez should be convicted of three charges against him: one count of second-degree manslaughter for the death of Castile, and two counts of "intentional discharge of firearm that endangers safety" for shooting into a auto with Reynolds and her daughter inside.

The officer who fatally shot Philando Castile during a traffic stop in July 2016 testified in court Friday that he fired his gun because he feared for his life.

At this point in time the officer was "not listening" and Castile was shot five times in the chest without being told to stop, Paulsen said.

Gray told the jury they "could reasonably infer" that Castile sat in his auto and smoked marijuana while Diamond Reynolds, her sister and daughter went inside Cub Foods prior to the shooting.

The Star Tribune reports that the jury of five women and seven men, including just two people of color, received the case at 1:10 p.m. local time Monday.

After Castile disclosed that he had a firearm, Yanez can be heard saying, "OK don't reach for it then".

An attorney for a Minnesota police officer charged in the shooting death of a black motorist past year says the officer "did what he had to do". He also cited testimony from first responders of Castile's gun falling out of his pocket as he was loaded onto a backboard.

In closing, Gray told the jury, "It's not that hard of a case".

Officer Jeronimo (yeh-RON'-ih-moh) Yanez is charged with manslaughter in Castile's death, which came just seconds after Castile informed the officer he was carrying a gun.

But during closing arguments on Monday, Yanez's defense team said Castile reached for his gun when he was told not to. He also alluded to testimony from defense witnesses who portrayed Yanez as a good and honest man.

Conviction on the manslaughter charge requires the jury to find Yanez guilty of "culpable negligence", which the judge described in jury instructions as gross negligence with an element of recklessness. Gray said prosecutors were taking the statements out of context.

He also contested the state's argument that Yanez should have told Castile that he resembled a robbery suspect from four days prior. Defense attorneys highlighted inconsistencies in Reynolds' statements to investigators to try to raise doubts about her honesty.

That BCA interview does show some discrepancies that the prosecution is depending on - such as Yanez saying he saw an "object" but not definitively saying it was a gun, as he did while on the stand. He then asked for Castile's license and proof of insurance.

Castile had THC, a component of marijuana, in his blood when he died.

"He gave me a deer-in-the-headlights look", Yanez said.

"[Yanez] had to make a split-second judgment", he argued.

Jurors returned to court briefly Tuesday morning to re-watch two key videos in the case.

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