The high-powered lawyers who are representing St. Anthony police officer Jeronimo Yanez vowed to “defend him to the end” in the fatal shooting of Philando Castile and said he’ll plead not guilty in court Friday.
Yanez turned himself into the Ramsey County jail on Thursday, a day after he was charged via summons in Ramsey County District Court with three felonies — second-degree manslaughter and two counts of dangerous discharge of a firearm — for firing seven shots at Castile during a stop on July 9. Yanez, 28, is scheduled to make his first court appearance Friday.
“He’s presumed innocent,” said one of his three attorneys, Earl Gray. “We’re going to defend him to the end.”
Ramsey County sheriff’s spokesman Sgt. John Eastham said that Yanez was “summons booked” Thursday, meaning that he was processed, photographed and immediately released without having to post bond.
Yanez’s legal defense includes Gray, Thomas Kelly and Paul Engh, a team of attorneys with decades of experience in high-profile cases.
Gray said Thursday afternoon that he had not yet read the criminal complaint filed against his client, and did not have any comments on evidence outlined by Ramsey County Attorney John Choi at a news conference Wednesday.
“It’s too early to second guess,” Engh said of Yanez’s actions.
National media attention and months of protests that followed are an “obvious concern” regarding Yanez’s right to a fair trial, Engh said. Asked if he would move for a change of venue, he said, “It’s early in the process. All motions are on the table.”
According to the criminal complaint, Yanez pulled over Castile, 32, on Larpenteur Avenue near Fry Street in Falcon Heights because he matched the description of a suspect in a gas station robbery due to his “wide-set nose.” The officer said Castile also had a nonworking brake light.
Castile complied with the stop and informed Yanez that he had a gun in his possession, for which he had a valid permit. Soon afterward, Yanez shot at Castile seven times as Castile’s girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, and her 4-year-old daughter watched.
A Facebook Live video recorded by Reynolds showed him bleeding in the car as Yanez stood nearby with his gun drawn. The video turned Falcon Heights into the latest flashpoint in the national debate over police killings of black men.
“To those of you who may say this incident was Philando Castile’s fault, I would submit that no reasonable officer — knowing, seeing and hearing what officer Yanez did at the time — would have used deadly force under these circumstances,” Choi said Wednesday.
The charges against Yanez are the first of their kind filed against an officer in modern Minnesota history.