ST. PAUL, Minn. – While the dashboard camera’s video of Officer Jeronimo Yanez’ fatal encounter with Philando Castile fails to conclusively show anything regarding what Castile was reaching for, it does offer a bit more detailed insight into Yanez’ condition following the shooting.
Yanez pulled Castile over and told him one of his brake lights was out around the one minute mark. He asked Castile for license and insurance, and Castile provided some documentation to Yanez, after which Castile informed Yanez of the presence of a firearm.
“Sir, I have to tell you I do have a firearm on me…” Castile said.
“Ok, don’t reach for it then,” Yanez said, as he put his hand on the holster of his own weapon, “Don’t pull it out.”
“I, I’m reaching…” Castile said.
“Don’t pull it out,” Yanez said.
“I’m not pulling it out,” Castile said.
“Don’t pull it out!” Yanez said.
Yanez drew his weapon as he uttered this sentence, and proceeded to fire seven shots in rapid succession, covering all of three seconds.
“You just killed my boyfriend!” yelled Diamond Reynolds.
Yanez proceeded over the next two minutes or so to scream at Reynolds and Castile not to move and to keep their hands up. Heavy breathing, shaking speech, guttural screaming, and a stream of profanity follow from Yanez over the rest of the video, as multiple police and emergency vehicles join the scene.
Audio also picks up Reynolds’ now famous commentary on the Facebook live video she streamed of the shooting’s aftermath.
“I told him not to reach for it I told him to get his hand open!” Yanez yelled during her commentary.
Yanez remained with weapon drawn and pointed at Castile until he was relieved by another officer around the 5:20 mark of the video. Officers started giving Castile some form of medical attention after removing him from the car around the 6:30 mark, slightly under five minutes after the last shot was fired by Yanez.
“In this specific case, it’s incredibly difficult to watch the videos of the shooting and its aftermath and not believe that this incident could have somehow been avoided,” Minnesota Gun Owners Caucus Chairman Bryan Strawser told Alpha News. “If a permit holder chooses to inform the officer, we recommend telling the officer that you have a permit to carry and are carrying a firearm, immediately followed by asking the officer how to proceed. Officers should also understand that an individual taking the initiative to identify themselves as a carry permit holder in this situation is unlikely to pose a threat.”
Other officers began to ask Yanez questions about the incident after he was removed from the side of Castile’s car.
“Which direction did you fire your weapon?” asked a female voice in the video.
“Right at the driver,” Yanez said audibly choked up, “I had it right out, I had it pointed down. I don’t know how many rounds I fired or anything.”
“He told me he had a firearm, and I told him not to reach for it, and when he went down to grab, I told him not to reach for it,” Yanez said, “And then he kept it right there, and I told him to take his hands off of it, and then he had his grip a lot wider than a wallet and I don’t know where the gun was he didn’t tell me where the [expletive] gun was.”
It is impossible by the dashboard video alone to verify Yanez’ take on how Castile was positioning himself. The only clearly visible part of Castile’s car is the rear, and as such none of the encounter on Castile’s end is picked up by the police squad car’s camera.
Strawser said that in the aftermath of Castile’s death, the Gun Owners Caucus sent letters to Governor Mark Dayton, Public Safety Commissioner Mona Dohman, the Minnesota Board of Peace Officers Standards and Training, and three major police trade associations in Minnesota. The letters asked for better practices to be developed for instances such as the one that led to Castile’s death, and offered the expertise of National Rifle Association members and Permit to Carry instructors in facilitating those changes.
“Unfortunately this outreach was ignored or rebuffed by all parties,” Strawser said. “We intend to continue to push towards finding a solution and improving these interactions to minimize future risk to both officers and permit holders.”
Yanez will not be returning to duty in St. Anthony. The city announced recently that they intend to offer him a voluntary separation agreement.
“The City of St. Anthony has concluded that the public will be best served if Officer Yanez is no longer a police officer in our city,” reads the statement.
Yanez’ attorney Earl Gray did not respond to requests for comment in time for publication.