A Minnesota jury deemed the Twin Cities cop who fatally shot Philando Castile not guilty on all counts, a decision that is sure to set off shockwaves across the country in the wake of widespread concerns that police officers are not adequately held accountable for violence against black males.
32-year-old Castile’s untimely death was broadcast on Facebook Live last summer by his girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, who sat next to him in his car as he bled. Castile had been shot by Jeronimo Yanez, who claimed that Castile disobeyed his orders and was reaching for a gun.
“I told him not to reach for it,” Yanez could be heard screaming on the video just before opening fire on Castile.
The verdict was met with shock on the part of Castile’s family and other activists who have campaigned against police brutality for years.
“Damn, what is it going to take?” Castile’s mother, Valerie Castile, wondered after the verdict was handed down. “We are devolving. We are going back down to 1969.”
Family lawyer Judge Glenda Hatchett echoed the sentiment: “We didn’t have a man fleeing from the scene. We didn’t have a man fighting with police. We had a man who was fully compliant … If Philando could die under these circumstances, each of you could die under these circumstances.”
But Yanez’s lawyers argued that the shooting was justified, pointing to the fact that Castile reached for an unseen object — Reynolds claims he was reaching for his wallet or seatbelt – and that the deceased had THC in his system prior to his death, which they argued could have impacted his reactions.
Black advocacy groups across the country have condemned the ruling.
“Officer Yanez joins a long and still growing list of police officers who have killed people of color with impunity,” said the NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund in a statement on Friday, stating that it had hoped the Castile case would be different.
The jury in the case had ten white members and two black members; Castile was black, and Yanez is Hispanic.