The agency that investigated the fatal shooting of Philando Castile will make its case file public Tuesday, including dashcam video that shows St. Anthony police officer Jeronimo Yanez fatally shooting Castile during a traffic stop.
The video played a key role in Yanez’s acquittal by what it didn’t show, one juror said Monday.
The news came as Castile’s family said it would file a civil suit against Yanez.
On Friday, a Ramsey County jury found Yanez not guilty of felony manslaughter and reckless discharge of a firearm in the July 6 death of Castile, 32.
The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension also is expected to release the interview its investigators conducted with Yanez after the shooting, which became a point of contention during the trial. Prosecutors did not introduce that interview as evidence until cross-examining Yanez on the stand. Judge William H. Leary III denied that request but allowed it to be referenced during Yanez’s cross-examination.
During deliberations, jurors asked to see the interview transcript. Leary said no.
Juror Bonita Schultz said Monday that she “kind of jumped out of my seat” when she first saw the dashcam video — a key piece of prosecution evidence played several times during trial. But she said the jury could not determine if Castile was reaching for a gun or not. Yanez claimed he shot Castile because he thought Castile was reaching for his gun. In his dying words, Castile said he was not reaching for it.
“That’s what we don’t know; that’s where our reasonable doubt was,” Schultz said. “Nobody knows except Yanez and Castile for sure. That’s the problem.”
‘Don’t pull it out’
The video, which was shown at the trial but has not been made public, starts with Yanez following Castile’s car and then pulling him over.
Yanez got out, then asked to see Castile’s license and insurance. Castile handed Yanez his insurance card.
“Sir, I have to tell you that I do have a firearm on me,” Castile told Yanez.
What happened next took only six seconds.
Yanez told Castile not to reach for it. “I’m ... I’m ...” Castile replied, before being interrupted by Yanez.
“Don’t pull it out,” Yanez told him.
“I’m not pulling it out,” Castile replied.
Castile’s girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, sitting in the seat next to him, said, “He’s not pulling it out.”
Yanez screamed “Don’t pull it out,” reached into the car, then pulled his arm out and fired seven shots.
Reynolds turned on Facebook Live and broadcast the aftermath. The video of a dying Castile with Yanez’s gun still trained on him through the driver’s window sparked widespread outrage.
An assistant for Glenda Hatchett, attorney for Philando Castile’s mother, Valerie Castile, confirmed that the Castile family plans to sue Yanez in federal court, but offered no details. Larry Rogers, an attorney for Reynolds, said after last week’s verdict that he and Reynolds would discuss potential civil action.
Rep. Nick Zerwas, R-Elk River, who was recently named Legislator of the Year by the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association, called Castile’s killing a “tragedy,” but noted that the acquittal was made by jurors with an“unbelievably high bar” set to convict an officer of a crime.
“And societally and historically, we give law enforcement huge discretion for the decisions they need to make in a split second,” Zerwas said. “Twelve members of a jury deliberated for five days what officer Yanez had a quarter of a second to decide.”
‘State couldn’t prove that’
Schultz had more to say about what jurors believed could and could not be gleaned from the dashcam video. Reynolds’ view of Castile’s hand, she said, was blocked by the car’s center console.
“The state couldn’t prove that, no, [Yanez] did not see a gun,” she said. “They could not prove that.”
She declined to comment on Reynolds’ testimony.
She said the most believable expert was Emanuel Kapelsohn, on the defense’s side, who on the stand showed how Castile’s gun would protrude out of his shorts as he was sitting down.
Schultz said she believed that testimony had an impact on the entire jury.
When jurors started deliberating, she said, at first the group was split, then by the end of the first day were at 8-4 for acquittal. The jury foreperson told the judge about the deadlock, and the judge told them to continue deliberations.
By the last day, the jury split was 10-2.
“We had no arguments, had no fights,” she said. “... Everybody was good about explaining their ideas.”
Ultimately, she said the case came down to who they believed.
“Did the state prove that [Yanez] shot when he shouldn’t have? It was supposed to be doubt. It had to be without a doubt that we convicted him,” she said. “And when it came right down to it, we felt the state did not prove its case.”
The dashcam video also shows police performing first aid on Castile about five minutes after he was shot. It shows Yanez telling another officer after the shooting that Castile “had his hand on it,” but also that “I didn’t know where the gun was.”
Juror Dennis Ploussard echoed Schultz’s sentiments about the prosecution’s shortcomings. He said Friday that Yanez’s interview with the BCA was a key stumbling block for the two holdouts, who were not the two blacks on the jury. The way Yanez worded his statement by never using the word “gun” made the holdouts believe Yanez never saw one, Ploussard said.
Monday marked the fourth consecutive day of reaction to the verdict, beginning with a protest on Friday night where thousands gathered at the State Capitol. Some eventually made their way to Interstate 94 and blocked the freeway for three hours before the Minnesota State Patrol cleared the scene and made arrests.
Gov. Mark Dayton on Monday praised the majority of demonstrators for being peaceful and the police for exercising restraint. Since the verdict was announced, the governor said he has met with the state’s chief inclusion officer, James Burroughs, to discuss how the state can address issues raised by the demonstrators, including policing and racial disparities.
Dayton said Burroughs is helping to set up meetings this week between the governor and African-American leaders.
“We need to move forward,” Dayton said. “We need to find ways we can work together, not only to begin to heal the deep wounds that exist among people who felt very strongly in disagreement with the decision of the jury, but also how we can bring people together and do so in a constructive way.”
Two Monday night meetings, one about community policing in Falcon Heights and another “community conversation” at the Wellstone Center in St. Paul, each drew about 100 people. The Falcon Heights City Council has approved two sets of task force recommendations on policing, and many in the group said they were committed to making those changes a reality. Reynolds appeared at the St. Paul meeting and spoke briefly of her disappointment in the verdict.
About three dozen people rallied at the State Capitol on Monday in memory of Castile and in protest of what some said was an unfair system. The Families for Philando event was organized by Minneapolis resident Daniel Muro LaMere, who also mobilized families last year for a demonstration on the Hennepin Avenue bridge.
Muro LaMere said he sought a way for families to participate since it could be difficult to bring young children to other rallies.
“We just need to gather our families,” he said Monday with his 5-year-old son and 17-month-old twins in tow. “It’s for our kids to know we did try to make things better.”
Staff writers Chao Xiong and Erin Golden contributed to this report.