The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension has turned over its three-month investigation of the officer-involved fatal shooting of Philando Castile to the Ramsey County attorney's office to determine whether criminal charges are warranted.
The death of Castile, a black man, drew national attention after dramatic video of the shooting's aftermath was live-streamed by his girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds. She was sitting in the front seat of his car with her 4-year-old daughter in the back seat when St. Anthony police officer Jeronimo Yanez shot Castile during a July 6 traffic stop in Falcon Heights.
Ramsey County Attorney John Choi now has to choose whether to bring the case before a grand jury to decide whether Yanez should face criminal charges, or make that call himself.
Reynolds told the Star Tribune on Wednesday she believes the BCA has treated her family and the public unfairly by withholding squad car dashcam video and other information that would shed light on the case.
"I wouldn't say I'm happy that this case is moving forward. I'm more relieved," she said. "But incidents like this had been happening long before what happened to my boyfriend and they will continue until we get resolution."
The grand jury process has come under fire by many activists, who have called for a special prosecutor to review the case. In an attempt to compromise, Choi brought in private attorney Don Lewis to help his team of prosecutors.
Glenda Hatchett, an attorney representing Castile's mother, Valerie Castile, said that the family wants to see a thorough investigation and Yanez charged with murder.
"If I had my druthers, I would want the prosecutor to make the decision on charges against the officer," said Hatchett. "He has discretion and I will respect his decision."
Choi said in a written statement issued Wednesday that he could not provide an estimated timeline for when his office would complete its review of the BCA's investigation. He noted that the Hennepin County attorney's review of the officer-involved shooting of Jamar Clark in Minneapolis took seven weeks. County Attorney Mike Freeman didn't send the Clark case to a grand jury and determined himself that no charges would be filed against the two police officers involved in Clark's death.
Reached for comment Wednesday, Ramsey County attorney spokesman Dennis Gerhardstein said that Choi's statement would speak for itself.
"Our office will work as efficiently as possible, while ensuring we conduct a diligent and thorough prosecution review of the BCA investigation, in order to determine what justice requires in this case," the statement said. "At this time, we are in the process of engaging national use-of-force consultants to assist in our prosecution review and evaluation of the BCA investigation. Also, it is very likely that we will be requesting further investigation from the BCA, as is typical in these types of cases."
The "engagement" of the use-of-force consultants will begin Thursday, he said.
Yanez's attorney, Thomas Kelly, declined to comment. He previously told the Star Tribune that his client cooperated with the investigation and remained distraught by the shooting.
Yanez remains on administrative leave. He briefly returned to duty in August but was again placed on leave following public outcry.
The city of Falcon Heights issued a statement Wednesday saying it had been notified that the BCA investigation is complete.
"We are committed to an accountable and thorough review of what has happened. The city stands ready to participate fully in the next steps of ensuring that justice is served and healing can continue," the statement said.
Choi met with Castile's family Aug. 2 to share information about how his office will proceed with its review.
Hatchett said the Castile family continues to struggle, but said she is amazed at the strength of Castile's mother and sister. Hatchett recently spent several days with Valerie Castile in Washington, D.C. Valerie Castile was a panelist at various programs and attended the Congressional Black Caucus dinner at which President Obama spoke.
Castile also interacted with several members of Congress, the president of the Urban League and the parents of Trayvon Martin, the unarmed black Florida teenager who was shot and killed by neighborhood watch coordinator George Zimmerman in 2012.
"Mrs. Castile continues to be a strong voice," Hatchett said. "In the midst of her unimaginable tragedy, she is very strong and courageous. She is lending an important voice in the conversation about police violence."
Hatchett said she was pleased about the recent charges against Tulsa police officer Betty Shelby in the Sept. 16 shooting of Terence Crutcher, another unarmed black man.
Philando Castile, she said, was a gainfully employed, had no criminal history and was complying with the directive of a police officer.
"If we can't get it right on this case, we can never get it right," she said.
Attorney Larry Rogers Jr., who is representing Reynolds, said Yanez should have been charged "long ago." He said other states routinely release dashcam and bodycam videos to the public and let the people decide for themselves if the officer's conduct was appropriate. BCA spokeswoman Jill Oliveira said her agency will continue to follow Minnesota law and release all public information once the investigation is closed, as it has done in every other case.
"This doesn't require a grand jury to decide if the officer's actions were justified,'' Rogers said.
Reynolds said she continues to be devastated by the death of her boyfriend and the series of officer-involved shootings that have happened since. She receives daily support from the public, stays "prayered up" and is confident God will give her family the answers they deserve.
"I'm still a mother at the end of the day," she said. "I have a daughter to raise."
Staff writer Chao Xiong contributed to this report.
David Chanen • 612-673-4465