Philando Castile: Police officer who fatally shot black man acquitted of all charges

Castile had informed him he had a gun in the charge, which he was licenced to possess

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The Independent US

The Minnesota police officer who killed Philando Castile last year during a traffic stop has been acquitted of all charges he faced over the gruesome death that was broadcast live.

Jeronimo Yanez shot Mr Castile after the black motorist informed him that he had a gun in his car. Mr Castile was licenced to have the weapon, and had been told to inform officers of the firearm in those situations for his safety.

Mr Yanez was fired from his position on the police force following his acquittal.

Mr Castile's mother spoke to the media after the decision, expressing anger and sorrow with the verdict.

"There has always been a systemic problem in the state of Minnesota, and me thinking, common sense that we would get justice. But nevertheless the system continues to fail black people", she said. "I am so disappointed in the state of Minnesota".

Mr Yanez and his family, meanwhile, quietly slipped out of the courthouse and into a van before leaving without taking question. Jurors similarly declined to comment on the verdict.

Mr Castile's death last year was a flash point in the debate over police treatment of black Americans in the country, after a string of videos showing police shooting unarmed black men had shocked the country and captured headlines. Like those shootings and deaths, Mr Castile's was caught on tape and sparked widespread protest. Unlike many of them, his was posted live on Facebook by his girlfriend, who was in the passenger seat of the car.

The Minnesota jury acquitted Mr Yanez of one count of second-degree manslaughter, and two counts of intentional discharge of a firearm that endangers safety. He faced the latter charges because Mr Castile's girlfriend and her four-year-old child were in the vehicle with him.

That jury heard two different narratives during the two weeks long trial. Their decision followed 27 hours of deliberation.

Prosecutors painted Mr Yanez as a nervous officer who lost control. He pulled the trigger too quickly after learning about the firearm, and that he was partially driven to do so because he suspected Mr Castile of a crime.

Mr Yanez testified that he feared for his life when Mr Castile grabbed for his firearm, even though he was told not to.

"I thought I was going to die", Mr Yanez testified on the fifth day of testimony in his trial. I had no other choice. I was forced to engage Mr Castile. He was not complying with my directions".

The video capturing Mr Castile's death is gruesome. In it, he can be seen gasping for air and slumped over to the right of his seat. Mr Yanez is seen with his gun drawn and pointed at him through the window. Writhing in apparent pain, Mr Castile's white shirt is stained deep red with blood from the five rounds he was hit with.

That video sparked protests around the country, and renewed charges that racial bias persists in America's police force. The vast majority of police officers who have killed unarmed or innocent black men have not been prosecuted for those actions, or have been acquitted.

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