Thursday, June 22, 2017


Video footage shows Minnesota traffic stop that ended with Philando Castile’s death

By Mark Berman and Wesley Lowery

The Washington Post
June 20, 2017

The Minnesota police officer who fatally shot Philando Castile during a traffic stop last year fired a volley of bullets within seconds of learning the driver was armed, according to a video recording released publicly Tuesday.

When the traffic stop began, the two men interacted calmly. Officer Jeronimo Yanez, a police officer in the Twin Cities suburbs, greeted Castile and examined his insurance card.

“Sir, I have to tell you that I do have a firearm on me,” Castile said 30 seconds after they began speaking.

“Okay,” Yanez interrupted, his voice remaining steady as he shifted his right hand onto the holster of his gun.

Yanez told Castile not to reach for the gun or pull it out. Castile said he was not, which was echoed by Diamond Reynolds, his girlfriend, sitting in the Oldsmobile’s passenger seat.

“I’m not pulling it out,” Castile responded. Yanez again yelled: “Don’t pull it out!” He then unholstered his gun and pushed it into the car.

“Don’t pull it out!” Yanez yelled. “I’m not!” Castile said as Yanez, seven seconds after being informed of the gun, began firing into the car.

The moments after quickly made their way around the world, as Reynolds began streaming live on Facebook, pleading with Castile to “stay with me” while blood soaked into his T-shirt. Castile died not long after. Spurred by Reynolds’s video, that fatal shooting in July 2016 became part of the country’s roiling debate about how police officers use deadly force.

A jury acquitted Yanez of manslaughter last week, a decision that set off protests in the St. Paul area. The same day, St. Anthony officials said Yanez would not be returning to their police department. Yanez also was acquitted on two felony charges of endangering Reynolds — who was sitting in the passenger seat — and her 4-year-old daughter, who was sitting behind her in a car seat.

Castile was among 963 people fatally shot by police officers last year, according to a Washington Post database tracking such shootings. While Reynolds’s footage pushed the encounter into the headlines, making it one of the most widely known police shootings in recent years, it was not the only recording captured that night.

A police dashboard camera was also filming, and that recording was played during Yanez’s trial but was not publicly released until Tuesday afternoon. Details from the recording were revealed in court documents and during the trial, but they were not publicly visible in the same way as Reynolds’s viral Facebook footage. The dash-cam video does not clearly show Castile’s movements inside the car.

“Based upon the release of the dashcam video today, it is clear that Officer Jeronimo Yanez was not in control, was nervous and acted in a reckless, willful and wanton fashion,” Larry R. Rogers Jr., an attorney for Reynolds, said in a statement Tuesday. “We are exploring our next steps in light of the compelling evidence of Officer Yanez’s wrongdoing that led to this tragedy.”

Yanez told investigators he feared for his life, and he said the same thing during his testimony earlier this month. According to the officer, he thought Castile was grabbing a gun, which Reynolds had disputed.

“I know he had an object and it was dark,” Yanez told investigators, according to the criminal complaint filed by prosecutors last year. “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.”

The police car dash-cam video was part of evidence released Tuesday afternoon by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety. The collection included documents and other recordings that were part of the state’s investigation into the shooting. The documents and recordings were being made “available to the public, as they were presented in court, but without the context that we were able to provide at trial,” according to a spokesman for Ramsey County Attorney John J. Choi, who prosecuted the case.

An attorney representing Yanez did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

Experts caution that video footage of police shootings can remain incomplete and, even if capturing an entire incident, might not definitively answer what an officer saw at that moment.

“The officer’s judged by what he or she reasonably sees or perceives,” said David J. MacMain, a former Pennsylvania state trooper and attorney who represents law enforcement officers in civil cases.

MacMain also said that when videos are released publicly, the encounters are dissected in a different way than officers perceive them while they unfold.

“We all get to look at it 20 times over and replay and zoom in and zoom out,” MacMain said. “Officers have to make split-second decisions, and we all get to critique it over the next four, five, six, seven months.”

Recordings are inevitably incomplete, said David A. Harris, a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh and an expert in police uses of force.

“Video doesn’t always capture the whole sequence of events,” Harris said. “This case was an example of that. We have a situation in which the Facebook Live stream only begins after the shooting itself. And it’s horrible. I don’t know how anybody could see that and not be affected by it. But it doesn’t show the actual shooting.”

Harris said that even if a recording showed Castile grabbing his wallet or grabbing a gearshift, that might not necessarily have swayed the trial’s outcome.

“Even if you had that on video, the question is could the officer have seen that,” Harris said, noting that the standard remains: “What could a reasonable officer have seen from his or her point of view?”

EDITOR’S NOTE: Yanez told investigators that when he pulled Castile over he was “hit with an odor of burning marijuana” and “I thought, I was gonna die and I thought if he’s, if he has the, the guts and the audacity to smoke marijuana in front of the five-year-old girl and risk her lungs and risk her life by giving her secondhand smoke and the front seat passenger doing the same thing then what, what care does he give about me.”

What a load of absolute crap! Until I I heard that lame excuse, I tended to side with Yanez.

Since Castile repeatedly told Yanez he was not going to pull out his gun and there is apparently nothing in the video that shows otherwise, it looks as though the cop simply panicked and began firing his gun.

The jury may have heard evidence that would mitigate the shooting. Or they may have wanted to give Yanez the benefit of the doubt.


bob walsh said...

The jury system is pretty good. It is not perfect. Nothing is.

Anonymous said...

The editor's comments make me sick to my stomach.

BarkGrowlBite said...

Anon, take some Pepto-Bismol

Anonymous said...

Thursday afternoon quarterbacking again. You weren't there. You couldn't see what the cop could see. These criminals know they are being videoed. Do you expect them to say I'm pulling my gun? When is the last time you were on a police training simulator? What would you have done? To be honest, you can't answer because you don't know what the officer saw. However, you can sure give your opinion in a manner designed to make the officer look bad.

The officer was giving his opinion of what he saw. Two people smoking dope in front of a 5 year old pretty much goes toward character. It's starting to look like this blog has it out for cops.

BarkGrowlBite said...

I don't have it out for cops, but I won't defend bad or questionable policing.

Call it Thursday afternoon quarterbacking if you like, but what he said about the pot smoking was contrived. Unless Yanez has been living under a rock, he had to know that pot heads smoke their joints in the presence of family and friends. They don't think they're doing anything wrong. To them it's no different then you or I drinking a beer in front of our kids. Yanez didn't stop to think what he said he did ... he made that horseshit up to justify the shooting.

I f Yanez had just stuck to having been scared to death, I can understand that.

Anon, I believe you're being overly-defensive in shootings by cops because you had an officer close to you who was involved in a shooting. That shooting was righteous, but not every shooting by a cop is.

Have it out for cops? Shit, I just got through defending NYPD officer Pantaleo in the Eric Garner choke-hold death. And I have a grandchild that is a cop and I'm very, very proud of that!

Anonymous said...

Your opinion was half baked and unnecessarily critical toward the officer.

BarkGrowlBite said...

Anon, talking to you is like talking to a keg of nails.

Anonymous said...

Maybe you're right. A lot of crap was said about that righteous shooting you mentioned. A good part of it was unnecessarily critical toward the officer. Most police decisions are made in a split second and they live in agony waiting for a Grand Jury decision. Criticizing the officer only adds to the anguish. Think about this. Just because an officer has been no billed by a Grand Jury doesn't mean it's over. It may be brought before a Grand Jury again based on new evidence, speculation or just a blog that fuels speculation. A killing has no statute of limitations.

I can be stubborn as a keg of nails, but I stand by what I say. Criticizing an officer's statement even after the fact can be harmful.

bob walsh said...

There is no legal nor moral requirement that an officer's actions be perfect. They are, however, required to be reasonable. I happily grant you that just because the dead guy SAID he wasn't pulling his gun does not mean than he was in fact not pulling his gun. Also I find the remark about pot smoking a bit troubling. All things considered I am willing to accept the jury decision. The system isn't perfect but for the most part it works. And anon, I should point out that Howie has a significant amount of been-there, done-that time.

Anonymous said...

Howie is a good guy. Stubborn but good.

BarkGrowlBite said...

Anon and Bob are good guys too, really good guys!

I've known Anon since 1970 and there is a good reason why he wants to remain anonymous. We have much in common. Sometimes when we disagree, we're arguing and thinking about the other like we're talking to a keg of nails. It's just that I think my nails are bigger than his. Ha, ha!

Anonymous said...

Ha! Ha! Rusty Nails!