For 20 minutes, Ramsey County, Minn., District Attorney John Choi eloquently, compassionately and thoroughly explained why his office chose to charge St. Anthony Police Officer Jeronimo Yanez in the shooting death of Philando Castile.
For the first time we learned that the entire ordeal was filmed (with audio and video) by dashcams on the police vehicle. According to Choi, what it showed was Philando Castile immediately pulling over his vehicle after seeing the flashing lights from Yanez. Choi then explained that when Yanez came to the window to speak to Castile, that Castile was “calmly and in a non-threatening manner said, ‘Sir, I do have to tell you that I have a firearm on me.’”
He had on his seat belt and was accompanied in the car by his fiance and her young daughter.
Castile never made any sudden movements or gestures. Castile, according to Choi, never made any verbal threats or gave any indication whatsoever that he posed any danger to the officer. In less than a minute after pulling Castile over, Yanez shot at Castile seven times at close range and then refused to provide any emergency aid or assistance — instead, keeping his gun drawn at Castile, who was bleeding out, and his traumatized passengers, who were now filming the scene on Facebook Live.
Choi then proceeded to say that, “No reasonable officer would have used deadly force under these circumstances.”
The prosecutor also confirmed three essential pieces of information that had been speculated on in the past: Castile did indeed have a concealed carry permit in his wallet, which was in his pocket, he never touched his legally owned firearm, which was deep in his pants pocket and remained there even when he was seen by paramedics.
Yanez racially profiled Castile, and could be heard on an audio dispatch saying that Castile’s “wide-set nose” looked like that of a black man seen robbing a store previously. Choi closed the book on that and said definitively that Castile was not the suspect wanted in that case. We knew that already. It was widely known that Castile loved his job in the public school system and was a beloved member of his community, but it was good for that ugly rumor to be put to rest.
So, after all of that, in a case where a law-abiding man who posed no harm to the police was repeatedly shot, Choi then announced they were just charging Yanez with second-degree manslaughter, which is just about the weakest charge he could’ve been given. While he faces up to 10 years in prison, he could also just get a $20,000 fine.
Then, the real gut punch came. Choi and his team have chosen to not even arrest Yanez. Instead, he simply gets to attend a hearing on Friday afternoon at his leisure. How in the hell can that be the case?
How can the DA describe what he described and admit the shooting was completely unnecessary and unreasonable, then decide to not even place the man under arrest? It’s unthinkable.
I’m sick. This is sick. I’ve said it before, but it warrants saying again — this criminal system is not broken. Nah, it’s functioning just the way it was designed. It’s firing on all cylinders. It’s operating just the way it was designed.
This is a mess and it’s just getting started.