The sun had just set on Falcon Heights, a sliver of a town on the outskirts of St. Paul, when a St. Anthony police officer on patrol spotted a white Oldsmobile cruising down Larpenteur Avenue, just blocks from the Minnesota State Fairgrounds.
The officer decided the car looked suspicious. He radioed to a nearby squad that he was going to pull it over and check IDs of the driver and passenger.
“The two occupants just look like people that were involved in a robbery,” he said casually, according to police audio obtained by the Star Tribune. “The driver looks more like one of our suspects, just because of the wide-set nose. I couldn’t get a good look at the passenger.”
He told a nearby officer he’d wait for him to make the stop. That was about 9:04 p.m. last Wednesday.
What happened in the next 103 seconds became the subject of international scrutiny and inspired protests around the country.
What’s certain is that the two St. Anthony officers, Jeronimo Yanez and Joseph Kauser, did pull over the 1997 Oldsmobile. It’s also clear that somewhere in that short window of time, Yanez fatally shot the driver, Philando Castile. The passenger, Castile’s girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, filmed and streamed the aftermath on Facebook Live, broadcasting in real time as her boyfriend, his white T-shirt soaked with blood, took what would be his last breaths. In the back seat, Reynolds’ 4-year-old daughter watched quietly.
“Code three!” screamed a frantic officer to dispatch, the request code for emergency responders. “Shots fired!”
‘Driver at gunpoint’
The Star Tribune obtained extensive police and other emergency audio recordings of the events of July 6. While they don’t shed much light on what happened in the time between the officers pulling Castile over and the shooting, the recordings do provide a window into a hectic aftermath.
Kauser first called in the shooting at 9:06. “Shots fired,” he said calmly. “Larpenteur and Fry.”
“Copy,” replied the dispatcher. “You just heard it?”
“Code three!” screamed Yanez, audibly panicked.
Dispatch called on Ramsey County to handle all police calls in Falcon Heights and Lauderdale — two cities St. Anthony police are contracted to patrol — with Minneapolis police on standby and the fire department taking ambulance calls. Officers raced to the scene, one noting that his car couldn’t go over 100 miles per hour.
From there, the details dripped in.
“One adult female being taken into custody,” reported an officer. “Driver at gunpoint. Juvenile female, child, is with [another officer]. We need a couple other squads to block off intersections.”
“All officers are good,” an officer called in. “One suspect that needs medics.”
Meanwhile, Reynolds’ Facebook video rapidly circulated through social media.
The missing 103 seconds
The investigation will likely come down to events of those 103 seconds, which already are being hotly disputed.
In the Facebook video, which begins after the shooting, Reynolds says the officers pulled them over for a broken taillight — though neither officer makes mention of a taillight in their radio conversation. Reynolds also says Castile told Yanez he was legally carrying a firearm, and the officer shot him “for no reason” when Castile reached for his wallet. A source has confirmed that Castile did have a license to carry a firearm.
“Please don’t tell me he’s dead,” says Reynolds as Castile droops lifelessly in the car seat.
“I told him not to reach for it!” screams Yanez. “I told him to get his hand open!”
Yanez has since retained attorney Thomas Kelly, who said his client believed Castile was a robbery suspect.
“This has nothing to do with race, and everything to do with the presence of a gun,” Kelly said. “Deadly force would not have been used if not for the presence of a gun.”
Jill Oliveira, spokeswoman for the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, would not comment on the audio.
It’s unclear which robbery suspects police believed Castile and Reynolds resembled. However, one day earlier, the BCA issued a call for the public’s help in identifying two suspects in a July 2 armed robbery of a nearby Lauderdale convenience store. Both suspects in the July 2 robbery were described as black men with shoulder-length or longer dreadlocks. The descriptions of the suspects included the clothing each suspect wore, but did not include estimated height, weight or ages.
Albert Goins, an attorney who assisted the Castile family in the hours following the shooting, said that if Castile were indeed a robbery suspect, officers would have initiated a felony traffic stop, which “does not usually involve officers walking up to your car and asking you to produce your driver’s license.”
“A felony stop involves bringing the suspect out at gunpoint while officers are in a position of cover and having them lie on the ground until they can identify who that individual is,” he said.
With regard to the audio, Goins said, “I can’t imagine that it’s reasonable suspicion to make a stop because somebody had a broad nose.”
Staff writers Brandon Stahl and David Chanen contributed to this report.