ST. PAUL, Minn. - A nine-minute police dash cam video was the centerpiece for both prosecutors and the defense team in the high-profile manslaughter trial of Jeronimo Yanez, and on Tuesday that tape was released so members of the public can view it and make up their own minds.
Last Friday, a jury found Yanez not guilty of all charges -- both manslaughter in Castile's death and two counts of dangerous discharge of a firearm for bullets that were fired near Castile's girlfriend and her little girl. The verdict set off a weekend full of protests from Castile supporters.
The video released Tuesday documents what unfolded that fateful night, from the moment Yanez (then a St. Anthony Police officer) begins following Philando Castile's car for a malfunctioning tail light, to the shooting and the lifesaving efforts that followed. Yanez was wearing a wireless microphone, and it captured the exchange between him and Castile that ends in seven gun shots in a matter of seconds.
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Yanez approaches the vehicle and informs Castile he pulled him over for an inoperable brake light. Yanez asks for Castile’s driver’s license and proof of insurance.
As Castile hands Yanez his insurance card, he says, “Sir, I have to tell you that I do have a firearm on me."
Yanez: “OK, don’t reach for it then.”
Castile: “I’m… I’m… [inaudible] reaching.”
Yanez: “Don’t pull it out.”
Castile: “I’m not pulling it out.”
Passenger: “He’s not pulling it out.”
Yanez: “Don't pull it out!”
[Seven shots fired]
The dash camera continues to record as other officers arrive, pull Castile from the car, and begin chest compressions. The recording includes a conversation Yanez then had with his supervisor, St. Anthony Police Officer Tressa Sunde.
"He [Castile] was sitting in the car, seat belted. I told him, can I see your license? And then, he told me he had a firearm. I told him not to reach for it and (sigh) when he went down to grab, I told him not to reach for it (clears throat) and then he kept it right there, and I told him to take his hands off of it, and then he (sigh) he had his, his grip a lot wider than a wallet," Yanez said.
Yanez went on to say:
"And I don’t know where the gun was, he didn't tell me where the f***ing gun was and then it way just getting hinky, he gave, he was just staring straight ahead, and I was getting f***ing nervous, and then I told him, I know I f***ing told him to get his f***ing hand off his gun."
While the video shows the shooting of Castile, it does not show what happened in the car to reflect what Yanez actually saw before opening fire.
The dash cam tape was just one piece of evidence released from the case files by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA). Also made available were the audiotape interview of Yanez by BCA investigators, the radio call by Yanez, full reports from the "use of force" experts used by both the prosecution and defense and photos of Philando Castile's gun, his wallet and permit to carry a weapon.
The audiotaped interview with BCA investigators took place the day after the shooting, with Yanez attorney Tom Kelly present. Although the jury was not able to listen to the recording after a ruling by Judge William Leary III, it is included in the BCA case file.
Describing the shooting, Yanez said:
"And, at that point I, was scared and I was in fear for my life and my partner's life. And for the little girl in the back and the front seat passenger and he dropped his hand down and, can't remember what I was telling him but I was telling something as his hand went down I think. And, he put his hand around something. And his hand made like a C-shape type, um, type shape and it appeared to me that he wrapping something around his fingers and almost like if l were to put my uh, hand around my gun like putting my hand up to the butt of the gun ...”
“And then I lost view of it. Cuz he kept canting his shoulder and then I believe I told him again, I can't remember, don't do it. And then he still kept moving his hand and at this point I looked and saw something in his hand. It was dark inside the vehicle. I was trying to fumble my way through under stress to look and see what it was to make sure, uh, what I was seeing. But I wasn’t given enough time and like I said he had no regard for what I was saying, Didn't follow my direction. And, uh, he started reaching out and then pulling, uh, away from his, uh, his right thigh. I don’t know if it was in his pocket or in between the seats or the center console. But I, I know he had an object and it was dark.
"And he was pulling it out with his right hand. And as he was pulling it out I, a million things started going through my head. And I thought I was gonna die. And, I was scared because, I didn’t know if he was gonna, I didn't know what he was gonna do. He just had somethin’ uh his hands and he, the first words that he said to me were, some of the first words he said is that he had a gun. And I thought he was reaching for the gun. I thought he had the gun in his hand, in his right hand. And I thought he had if enough to where all he had to do is just pull it out, point it at me, move his trigger finger down on the trigger and let off rounds."
"I had no other option than, to take out my firearm and, and I shot. Um I shot him. I don’t remember the first couple shots. I believe I remember the last two shots. And I believe one of the shots went into his left arm. Um, as I was shooting uh I,I kept watching him. And I, I remember smelling the gun smoke and the bright flashes from the muzzle. And then I heard, a couple pops uh from my firearm. Um and then my partner was on the opposite side of the vehicle. Uh watch, looking in and I directed my gunfire down as best I could. Away from, not trying to put the little girl’s life in jeopardy or the passenger or my partner because they were in my line of fire.”
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