Shot dead because the car smelt like pot: Policeman acquitted over stop and search murder

Other | Wednesday 21st June 2017 | Patience

Last year saw a steady stream of black people being murdered by police and till now, the world has awaited justice. It seems justice is a long way off because, on the 16th of June, a police officer was acquitted of the obviously wrong slaying of the much-loved school chef Philando Castile.

On July the 6th, 2016, St. Anthony police officer Jeronimo Yanez stopped Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, with his girlfriend Diamond Reynolds, and her young daughter in the car.

49 seconds later Officer Yanez fired seven shots into the vehicle, the aftermath of Castile's shooting was live-streamed via Facebook. His girlfriend streamed the shooting, "Because I know that the people are not protected against the police.”

She added, “I wanted to make sure if I died in front of my daughter that people would know the truth.”

After the shooting Yanez told state investigators that he shot Castile because he smelt marijuana, and feared for his life, according to the transcripts released by the Ramsey County Attorney's Office.  

Yanez said, "the driver uh appeared to me that he appeared to match the uh physical 356 description of the one of our suspects from the strong arm robbery, gunpoint."

The officer failed to tell investigators that Castile had said he was " not reaching" before he was told not to. As the recent Dash camera footage released shows Castile telling the officer "I do have a firearm on me." The 32-year-old was licensed to carry a gun.

Yanez then orders him to not reach for it, and Castile replies:  “I’m not pulling it out.” Despite his honest admission, Castile was still shot and he can be heard in his final moments screaming in agony, saying "I wasn't reaching."

The Minnesota police officer was charged with second-degree manslaughter, with the maximum sentence of 10 years plus a $2,000 fine.

However, on June the 16th a Minnesota jury acquitted Yanez of second-degree manslaughter and once again another police officer will not see justice, because it is assumed that Yanez had a right to be 'fearful' for his life, in what was essentially a no-risk situation.

He was with his girlfriend, his daughter and he is a chef, much loved by the kids. In fact, he remembered the dietary eating requirements and names of ALL of the 500 schoolchildren in his care. 

The policeman's initial panic is somehow seen as justification enough to end a life, for no other reason than he 'thought' Castile was a potential threat. Basically 'he was a black man, with a gun'. Surely Yanez could have defused the situation by asking Castile, whether he carried a permit for his gun or even where he had the gun stored.

Rightly so, several people were left outraged, Mel Reeves, a community activist went on to say, "It’s not us that were on trial, it was the system that was on trial.”

An estimated 1,500 people protested at the Minnesota Capitol in St. Paul on the day of the verdict.

The NRA has also been suspiciously silent, as  Trevor Noah points out this is surprising cause "according to their rhetoric, this is everything that they stand against, right? An officer of the state depriving a citizen of his life because he was legally carrying a firearm?"

He adds: "It's interesting how the people who define themselves by one fundamental American right — the right to bear arms — show that once race is involved, the only right that they believe in is their right to remain silent. "


The internet's reaction was obvious: 

(1/2)After shooting and killing Philando Castile, police then handcuffed and arrested Diamond Reynolds, his fiancé, right there in front of her daughter. This video was just released. #philandocastile #blacklivesmatter #weshallovercome

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