Officer who shot Philando Castile testifies

Cheryl Sanders
June 20, 2017

Wiping away tears, Officer Jeronimo Yanez on Friday sought to explain to the world why he chose to shoot Castile during a routine traffic stop while Castile's girlfriend and her 4-year-old daughter looked on.

This was the first time we've heard from Yanez, since he was charged with manslaughter in the 32-year-old's death last July.

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - A use-of-force expert testified Friday that a Minnesota police officer was justified in the fatal shooting of a black motorist moments after the man told him he was carrying a gun, and said his tests found the motorist could have pulled the weapon in a fraction of a second.

"I was able to see the firearm in Mr. Castile's hand, and that's when I engaged him", Yanez told the jury.

Yanez has said he was justified in stopping Castile's vehicle because he resembled a suspect in a convenience store robbery, according to court documents.

Castile told Yanez he had a firearm, according to The Associated Press, and video shows Yanez telling Castile not to reach for it.

An audio recording captured Castile telling Yanez that he had a gun in the vehicle, and Yanez telling Castile not to reach for it.

Officer Yanez is charged with second-degree manslaughter, plus two felony counts of unsafe discharge of a firearm, in the shooting that fueled more nationwide protests over the excessive use of force against black people. Yanez is charged with manslaughter.

Reynolds testified that Castile had been trying to unbuckle his seat belt to get his wallet when Yanez shot him.

He testified that he saw Castile reaching for his gun and was forced to fire on him who did not obey his orders.

Kapelsohn says if Yanez saw a gun, he was justified to shoot. Another St. Paul firefighter testified previously that he saw a police officer reach "deep" inside Castile's pocket to retrieve it.

Then, when Castile told him he had a firearm, Yanez reacted within the bounds of his training when he told him not to reach for "it". Kapelsohn disagreed, saying the central question to him was whether Yanez "reasonably believed that Castile was pulling out a firearm".

The instructor at the gun range in Ramsey where Castile took his permit-to-carry safety class also testified Thursday.

When prosecutors questioned him about the commands Yanez yelled at Castile, Kapelsohn said, "Officers are not flawless". Hardin said his opinion was based on Castile's blood levels of THC, the high-inducing agent in marijuana. One witness, Jeffrey Noble, who is an expert on police force, called his actions "objectively unreasonable". Castile's death in little more than a minute after he was pulled over for a broken taillight captured the world's attention as his girlfriend live-streamed the shooting's aftermath on Facebook.

Both the prosecution and defense also called use-of-force experts to testify on behalf of their side.

Mangseth told Engh, the defense attorney, that a key police tenet is, "Be safe, and make sure you go home at the end of your shift, along with your partner". He is also certified in instructing police defense tactics, handgun retention and police use of force.

Paulsen also questioned Dutton's decision to leave comments made by Castile and Reynolds - specifically Castile's response of "I'm not pulling it out" in reply to Yanez's command - out of his analysis.

YANEZ: "Okay, don't reach for it, then".

Kapelsohn said three-eighths of inch of the butt of the gun was left below the lip of the pocket.

Yanez's chief, Jon Mangseth, defended the officer when he took the witness stand on Thursday, saying Yanez had a record free of disciplinary problems as well as "a real sound ability when it comes to communicating and relating to people", according to NBC affiliate KARE 11. The ratio of black jurors matches the black population of Ramsey County, which includes St. Paul and several suburbs.

When the traffic stop happened, Castile had told Yanez that he had a weapon, an audio recording of the encounter reveals, and Yanez told him not to reach for it. Seconds later, Yanez opened fire. Dutton is convinced that Officer Jeronimo Yanez saw a gun before he shot Philando Castile during a traffic stop in a St. Paul suburb.

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