Minn. prosecutors to provide update on Castile case

Published 10:10 am Wednesday, November 16, 2016

MINNEAPOLIS — Authorities are planning to provide an update Wednesday about their investigation into the fatal shooting of a black man by a Minnesota police officer.

Prosecutors have been considering charges against St. Anthony police officer Jeronimo Yanez, who killed Philando Castile, 32, during a July 6 traffic stop in Falcon Heights.

An advisory from Ramsey County Attorney John Choi’s office said he would provide an update on the case Wednesday morning, but it was not clear what that update would be or whether a charging decision would be announced.

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The shooting’s gruesome aftermath was streamed live on Facebook by Castile’s girlfriend, who was with him in the car along with her young daughter. The woman said Castile was shot several times while reaching for his ID after telling Yanez he had a gun permit and was armed.

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.

But family members claimed Castile, an elementary school cafeteria worker, was racially profiled.

Choi got the case in late September and began reviewing the evidence for possible charges. Choi resisted pressure immediately after the shooting to turn the case over to a special prosecutor, but added one to his team to get an outside perspective. He also enlisted the help of national use-of-force consultants.

Choi’s office has said a key question in his review was determining whether Yanez was justified in believing deadly force was necessary.

The announcement comes a day after the anniversary of the high-profile police killing of Jamar Clark in Minneapolis. No charges were filed in that case.

Castile’s shooting prompted numerous protests, including a weekslong demonstration outside the governor’s mansion and one rally that shut down Interstate 94 in St. Paul for hours. The interstate protest 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 fatal shootings of black men and boys by police officers have come under heightened scrutiny since the 2014 death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and led to calls nationwide for officers to be held criminally responsible. No charges were filed in that case.

When looking at whether to file charges, authorities must determine if the officer believed he or she, or fellow officers, were in danger in the moment the decision is made to shoot. If the fear of danger is deemed reasonable, charges are typically not filed. To prove a serious charge such as murder, prosecutors must also show that the officer was not just reckless, but had ill intentions.