On Thursday evening, two law enforcement officials stood watch at the quiet home of a St. Anthony police officer, less than 24 hours after Philando Castile was fatally shot.
Later, the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension identified the officer who shot Castile as Jeronimo Yanez, and his partner as Joseph Kauser. Both are four-year members of the department, and both have been put on standard administrative leave.
Attorney Thomas Kelly, who is representing Yanez, declined to comment.
Yanez graduated from Minnesota State University in Mankato in 2010 with a degree in law enforcement. He is married and has one child.
Law Enforcement Labor Services Inc., the union that represents 5,000 police officers in Minnesota, including those in St. Anthony, called Castile’s death a terrible tragedy for all involved, especially his family and loved ones.
“The video that is being shown in the media is graphic. It’s emotional. And it is difficult to watch,” said Sean Gormley, the union’s executive director.
As a union representing police officers, he said his members know people are angry, discouraged and heartbroken. People want answers, and those feelings are completely understandable, he said.
“It’s critically important to remember that there is still a great deal we don’t know about what happened in this incident and why,” Gormley said. “We support an open, thorough and objective investigation. We support the officers’ right to due process.”
Castile was shot in Falcon Heights, in Ramsey County, where officer-involved incidents have historically been presented by the county attorney’s office to a grand jury for charging consideration. County Attorney John Choi declined to comment Thursday.
Gov. Mark Dayton has signaled his desire for federal intervention in the case.
The St. Anthony Police Department has 23 officers, eight of whom are paid for through policing contracts with the cities of Lauderdale and Falcon Heights. Its squad cars are a common sight on Larpenteur Avenue, the street where Wednesday’s shooting occurred. According to its annual report, the department issued more than 4,300 citations in Falcon Heights and Lauderdale in 2015.
The department’s interim chief said Wednesday night there hadn’t been an officer-involved shooting in the department for 30 years.
Falcon Heights City Council Member Tony Fischer said the council had not had a chance to discuss how the city will move forward. It was unclear whether any officers were outfitted with body cameras. “In general, I want to see more transparency and body cameras being a part of that,” Fischer said.
The suburban city of 5,300 has contracted with neighboring St. Anthony for police services for at least a decade.
St. Anthony does have squad car dashcams, but it’s unclear whether they captured Wednesday’s shooting.
Castile’s girlfriend said he told the officer that he had a permit to carry and that there was a weapon in his car. Whether an officer knows a person has a permit to carry or not, the tactics during a traffic stop are the same, said Andy Skoogman, executive director of the Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association. Officers are trained to watch for a weapon, look at a person’s hands, review and process all visual, verbal and historical information on every stop, he said.
“They then must make a difficult, split-second decision based on the totality of all those factors, which differ in each situation,” he said. “Whether a person says he or she has a permit to carry is just one factor an officer must take into consideration.”
While many facts remain unknown, the video of the shooting’s aftermath offers a heartbreaking view into a narrative that has occurred all too often across our state, said Bryan Strawser, executive director of the Minnesota Gun Owners Caucus.
“This tragedy may also offer an opportunity to take a hard look at police training and protocols related to interactions with armed citizens who are legally carrying a firearm,” he said. “Despite their portrayal by some, law-abiding permit holders are statistically among the safest populations in our state.”
As the investigation proceeds and the facts become clearer, the caucus will work with any law enforcement agency that wishes to review its protocols and training for interactions with legally armed citizens, Strawser said.
Gormley said law enforcement requires mutual trust and respect between officers and the communities they serve. “Preserving that trust and respect can be especially challenging following incidents like this,” he said.