Minnesota police shooting probe goes to prosecutors

Published 10:53 am Thursday, September 29, 2016

MINNEAPOLIS  — Minnesota investigators looking into the July shooting of a black man by a suburban St. Paul police officer announced Wednesday that they’ve turned their findings over to a county prosecutor who will review the case for possible charges.

Here’s a look at key elements in the death of Philando Castile:
The shooting

Philando Castile was fatally shot July 6 during a traffic stop in the St. Paul suburb of Falcon Heights. The shooting’s gruesome aftermath was streamed live on Facebook by Castile’s girlfriend, who says Castile was shot several times while reaching for his ID after he told the officer he had a gun permit and was armed.

Email newsletter signup

Family members claim Castile, a 32-year-old elementary school cafeteria worker, was racially profiled when he was pulled over by St. Anthony police officer Jeronimo Yanez.

Yanez’s attorney, Tom Kelly, has said Yanez, who is Latino, was reacting to the presence of a gun, and that one reason Yanez pulled Castile over was because he thought he looked like a “possible match” for an armed robbery suspect.
The investigation

The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension has been investigating the shooting, and said Wednesday that it turned its findings over to prosecutors to consider possible charges.

Authorities have said they have squad car video, but they haven’t released it or described what it shows. There is no body camera video, and authorities have said little else about other evidence that might exist.

Facebook video streamed by Castile’s girlfriend only shows the shooting’s aftermath — not the shooting itself or anything leading up to it.
Reviewing the case

Ramsey County Attorney John Choi said Wednesday that his office will diligently review the case “in order to determine what justice requires” but he offered no timeline on how long that might take. He noted it took another prosecutor about seven weeks to review the fatal police shooting of Jamar Clark, who was also black. The two white officers involved in Clark’s shooting last November in Minneapolis were not charged.

Since the Castile shooting, there have been public calls for Choi to step aside. He announced in July that he would not, saying he was elected to uphold the law and must be accountable. However, he added a special prosecutor to his team to enhance public trust.

Choi said his office has enlisted national use-of-force consultants to help review the case. He said earlier that he hadn’t yet decided if he’d send the case to a grand jury or whether his office will make the charging decision.
The aftermath

Castile’s shooting prompted numerous protests, including a weekslong demonstration outside the governor’s mansion that resulted in about 70 arrests, rallies outside Choi’s office and public outcry at city meetings. One protest three days after Castile was killed shut down Interstate 94 in St. Paul for hours, and resulted in about 50 arrests and injuries to more than 20 officers, after police said they were hit with cement chunks, bottles, rocks and other objects.

The shooting also exposed a disproportionate number of arrests of African-Americans in St. Anthony, Lauderdale and Falcon Heights, which are all patrolled by the St. Anthony Police Department. The Associated Press reported in July that an analysis of police data showed black people made up nearly half of all arrests made by St. Anthony officers in 2016. Census data shows that just 7 percent of residents in the three cities are black.

Since the shooting, St. Anthony officials have expressed interest in looking into possible racial bias within the Police Department. Meanwhile Yanez, who was put on leave, returned to work briefly in August, but was placed back on leave after protesters demanded he be charged.

Glenda Hatchett, the attorney for Castile’s family, said in the days after the shooting that the family intends to file a lawsuit. The family also has asked for a federal civil rights investigation, and is demanding that Yanez be charged.