Prosecutor: Minnesota officer didn’t see gun

Published 8:17 am Tuesday, June 6, 2017

ST. PAUL — Opening statements in the manslaughter case of a Minnesota police officer who fatally shot a black motorist included sharply different versions of whether the officer ever saw the man’s gun.

Officer Jeronimo Yanez is charged with manslaughter in the July death of 32-year-old Philando Castile. Yanez had pulled Castile over for a broken taillight when Castile told him he was carrying a gun.

Moments later, Castile was mortally wounded.

Prosecutor Rick Dusterhoft showed jurors squad car video in which Yanez tells a fellow officer he didn’t know where the gun was.

Defense attorney Paul Engh says Yanez will testify Castile ignored commands and that he saw Castile’s hand on the grip of the gun before he opened fire.

The jury was seated earlier in the day after defense attorneys unsuccessfully tried to block one of two black jurors in the final group.

Defense attorney Earl Gray argued that an Ethiopian-American woman in the jury pool didn’t understand the criminal justice system well enough to follow the proceedings.

Prosecutor Jeff Paulsen called that a pretext to block the woman because of her race. Judge William Leary rejected the defense challenge.

The only other minority on the panel is a young black man. The panel is made up of 12 jurors and three alternates.