74 Seconds: The trial of officer Jeronimo Yanez | Minnesota Public Radio News


74 Seconds: The trial of officer Jeronimo Yanez

In July 2016, officer Jeronimo Yanez shot Philando Castile during a traffic stop in a Twin Cities suburb. The world watched the aftermath, live on Facebook. Yanez was charged in Castile's death. Jurors found him not guilty on all charges June 16, 2017.

This is the archive of MPR News' live coverage of the trial, starting from the beginning. The newsroom also covered the trial and its aftermath on the air, online and in the 74 Seconds podcast.
  • Day 9: 'I thought I was going to die': Yanez tells jurors; defense rests

    Friday, June 9, 2017
    Updated: 6:45 p.m. | Posted: 12:01 a.m.
    Jeronimo Yanez testifies on the stand Friday, June 9 in the Ramsey County courthouse (Nancy Muellner for MPR News)
    By Jon Collins and Riham Feshir  | MPR News
    St. Paul – St. Anthony police officer Jeronimo Yanez, on trial for killing Philando Castile during a July traffic stop, took the stand Friday, telling jurors he was forced to shoot Castile because he was not complying with the officer's commands and was reaching for a gun.
    "I didn't want to shoot Mr. Castile at all," said Yanez, who choked back tears at times during his testimony. "I thought I was going to die," he said, adding that images of his family rushed into his mind. "I had no other choice."
    Yanez's testimony offered some of the most gripping moments of the entire trial. It was the first time the officer had spoken publicly since the shooting.
    Recounting the encounter, the officer initially pulled Castile, 32, over that day because he said the driver bore a resemblance to a suspect in a local convenience store robbery days earlier. After pulling him over, he  said he got a good look at Castile but wanted to do more investigation, so hadn't ruled Castile out as the suspect.
    Yanez, who faces second-degree manslaughter and weapons charges, said he didn't remember looking at the insurance card Castile handed him, but did remember clearly that Castile said, “'Sir, I have to tell you that I do have a firearm on me.'”
    Asked what went through his mind when he heard "firearm," Yanez replied, "It changes the dynamic of the traffic stop. It puts the officer on high alert.”
    Yanez, 29, testified that he was compelled to shoot after he saw Castile's right hand in a C-shape, eyes straight ahead, and that Castile pulled a gun out of his pocket far enough so the gun slide could be seen.
    He acknowledged he did not give Castile detailed commands after telling him not to reach for the gun.
    “You didn't tell him to stop. You didn't tell him to put his hands up. You didn't tell him, don’t move.” asked prosecutor Richard Dusterhoft. Yanez answered "No."
    Dusterhoft questioned Yanez on why he didn't explicitly say that he saw a "gun" after the shooting or the next day at the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension interview. Yanez admitted he used qualifiers when talking about the firearm, and said when he told investigators "it" or "object" that he was referring to the gun.
    Exactly where Castile's gun was at various times in the encounter remains a question. 

    Roseville police officer Grant Dattilo testified Thursday that he was helping give medical support to Castile, putting him on a backboard, when he said he saw the handle of the gun sticking out of Castile's right front pocket. Later in the day, Roseville officer Zachary Wiesner testified he saw the gun slide out of Castile's pocket when he was being put in back board.
    A St. Paul firefighter paramedic has testified that he saw an officer pat down Castile while he was on the ground and then reach deep into his pocket to retrieve the gun.
    The prosecution tried to point out inconsistencies in Yanez's statements on whether he saw the gun. He said he was under tremendous stress.
    Dusterhoft pointed out that Yanez told state investigators that he saw the "barrel" of the gun.On Friday, Yanez said he meant the back portion of the slide.
    "You said barrel, you said it twice," Dusterhoft said. Yanez insisted he meant slide and handle of the gun.
    While trying to explain how he got confused between the barrel and the slide of the gun, Yanez asked to show the jury himself. He stood up with the weapon and pointed out the section of the gun he testified that he'd seen.
    The defense rested its case on Friday. Closing statements and jury deliberations will come Monday.
    Yanez attorney Earl Gray said he thought the trial went "splendid." The Castile family's civil attorney said the family would not comment until after the verdict.
    The final exhibit of evidence introduced in the trial was video taken in the backseat of a squad car as an officer brought Diamond Reynolds home the morning after the shooting.
    Reynolds, Castile's girlfriend who was in the car during the shooting along with her 4-year-old daughter and had live streamed the aftermath, was crying and saying that she had not groceries or money for groceries. “This is so embarrassing,” she said.

    Bureau of Criminal Apprehension investigator Chris Olson testified that he'd given Reynolds $40 that night, which contradicted a statement from Reynolds earlier in the trial. Under prosecution questioning, Olson said he'd only told Reynolds that Castile had died about an hour before she was taken home.
    'Reasonable force'
    Earlier in the day, a use-of-force expert testifying in Yanez's defense said if an officer believes a suspect is pulling out a gun -- even if he doesn't see it -- responding with deadly force is justified. 
    Yanez "did use reasonable force," and took action like a reasonable officer, Emanuel Kapelsohn told the court, adding that officers can "possibly" be justified in shooting even in cases where person pulls out wallet or other item mistaken for gun.
    Kapelsohn was the defense's second use-of-force expert to call his shooting of Castile justified. Earlier this week, the prosecution's expert ripped Yanez for what he called the officer's "excessive" and "inappropriate" use of deadly force after viewing squad dashcam video of the incident.
    Kapelsohn testified that he bought same shorts as Castile had been wearing that day (in a larger size) and was able to take the same gun out with just a thumb and forefinger. He also said he timed how long it would take to be sitting in a car, take the gun out and shoot. He said he calculated the time at less than a third of a second, a time shorter than cops could react.
    An expert witness called by the defense testifies about Philando Castile's gun on the ninth day of the trial of Jeronimo Yanez. (Nancy Muellner for MPR News)
    Prosecutor Jeffrey Paulsen later pressed Kapelsohn on why Yanez said he didn't know where the gun was if he saw it, and why he didn't tell responding cops that there was gun. 
    Paulsen also disclosed that before sitting down with Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension investigators, Yanez had already been told that a gun had been recovered at the scene.
    Kapelsohn also acknowledged that Yanez could have given clearer orders, adding, "officers are not perfect."
    Asked why he omitted statements from a dying Castile and his girlfriend that Castile wasn't reaching for the gun. Kapelsohn replied he didn't think it was necessary.
    What's next
    Closing arguments from the defense and prosecution come Monday. Jury deliberation will also begin.
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