A Minnesota jury has acquitted a police officer accused of shooting and killing Philando Castile, whose death last summer was live-streamed by his girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds. The video was shocking for several reasons, one of which was Reynolds’s calm tone as she spoke to the officer, Jeronimo Yanez, who himself was only beginning to realize he’d killed Castile. The verdict will likely infuriate activists who complain officers have too often killed unarmed black men without consequences.
The jury acquitted Yanez of all charges, which included second-degree manslaughter, for which he faced 20 years. Castile’s death was one of two involving officers who shot black men within a day last year. Both led to large protests, and in Minnesota, protesters camped for two weeks outside the governor’s mansion. Friday’s verdict came on the fifth day of jury deliberations—27 hours in all. The case was of major significance in the state, because it is believed to be the first time in its history that an officer was charged in an on-duty fatal shooting. The verdict, however, repeats a pattern across the country of officers who shot unarmed black men and were later acquitted by juries.
The specifics of Yanez’s case centered on what happened right before the live-stream. Yanez’s lawyer said in court the officer had pulled Castile over because he believed he matched the description of a robbery suspect and that he smelled marijuana in the car. On that day of the shooting, however, Yanez told Castile his brake light was out. Castile was carrying a gun, which he had a legal permit to do, and he told Yanez he had a weapon in the car. But seconds later, Yeanez fired into the car several times and killed Castile. Reynolds recorded the aftermath on a Facebook live-stream as she sat beside Castile in the car, her daughter in the backseat, as she calmly spoke with the officer.