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Officer who shot Philando Castile is charged with manslaughter

Officer Jeronimo Yanez is being charged for shooting and killing Philando Castile.
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The police officer who shot and killed Philando Castile is being criminally charged.

Ramsey County Attorney John Choi said Wednesday he concluded St. Anthony police officer Jeronimo Yanez did not act reasonably on the evening of July 6, when he shot Castile multiple times.

"Based upon our full and exhaustive review of the facts, have come to the conclusion that there simply was no justification for the use of deadly force by officer Yanez in this case," Choi said, adding: "No reasonable officer who knew, saw or heard what officer Yanez did at the time would have used deadly force under these circumstances."

Yanez is being charged with second-degree manslaughter, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years. He's also charged with two felony counts of intentional discharge of a dangerous weapon. He will be in court at 1:30 p.m. Friday.

The dangerous weapon charges relate to Castile's girlfriend Diamond Reynolds – who was in the passenger seat at the time of the shooting – and her 4-year-old daughter, who was in the rear seat.

In a packed room at the Ramsey County Attorney's Office, Choi revealed some of the details from his investigation that sheds more light onto the circumstances which led to Castile's death.

Much of the debate prior to Wednesday centered on whether Castile was reaching for his handgun after telling Yanez he had a permit to carry.

Choi said that based on dash cam footage and audio, he determined that "Castile never removed and never tried to remove his handgun," which was tucked deep in one of his inside pockets.

Castile's last words were: "I wasn't reaching for it."

'Conscience' told Choi not to use grand jury

In making the decision, Choi opted not to use a grand jury to make the decision, instead relying on his own judgment. The Ramsey County Attorney's Office has always used a grand jury in past officer-involved shootings.

Choi said his "conscience tells me it would be wrong for me to ask a grand jury to make this decision when I know in my heart what needs to be done."

"I ask for the public’s continued patience, trust and respect for the integrity of the process, as we prosecute this case and seek justice for Philando Castile, his family and friends, including Diamond Reynolds and her daughter, and our broader community," he added.

Choi told reporters that Castile had both hands on the wheel when Yanez approached his vehicle after pulling him over in Falcon Heights, and was respectful in his conversation with the officer.

Police officers are allowed to use deadly force when they believe they or other people are at risk of death or serious injury, but Choi did not find the fear Yanez said he felt during the incident to be reasonable.

According to the Star Tribune's database, at no point in the past 16 years has a Minnesota officer been charged in the fatal shooting of someone.

Gov. Mark Dayton Wednesday had this to say about Choi's decision:

"Today’s announcement by Ramsey County Attorney John Choi is an important step toward the determination of justice in this awful tragedy. I commend the County Attorney for his careful review; the judicial process must now resolve the proper outcome."

The Philando Castile shooting

Castile, a black man, was fatally shot by Yanez on July 6 in Falcon Heights.

Reynolds live-streamed the aftermath on Facebook – millions watched Castile, covered in blood and slumped over in his seat, moments after being shot.

Castile's death led to more calls for justice from community members, as well as marches and protests on highways and in front of the Governor's Residence in St. Paul.

His death (as is the case with nearly all officer-involved shootings) was investigated by the state's Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, with the assistance of the FBI.

That agency handed over its findings to Choi and the Ramsey County Attorney's Office at the end of September. Since then, Choi had been weighing whether a grand jury or he himself would make the decision on possible criminal charges against Yanez.

Reaction to the decision

St. Paul mayor Chris Coleman issued a statement saying Choi, who spoke with the Castile family prior to Wednesday's announcement, had "one of the hardest decisions a prosecutor has to make."

"While I have not reviewed the evidence he and his team analyzed, I am confident that his decision was grounded in a thorough investigation of the facts and a deep commitment to upholding his public responsibility." he said.

"I also want, once again, to extend my deepest sympathies to the Castile family. Nothing about this decision will ease their pain or redeem their loss. We will continue to hold them in our thoughts as this process moves forward."

People have been reacting to the announcement on social media.

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