A Minnesota police officer was acquitted of manslaughter on Friday for the fatal shooting of Philando Castile, a black motorist whose girlfriend streamed the aftermath live on Facebook.
Jeronimo Yanez was also cleared of two lesser charges related to the July traffic stop in a St. Paul suburb. Jurors deliberated for about 29 hours over five days before reaching the verdict in the death of Castile, 32, who was shot just seconds after informing Yanez that he was carrying a gun.
Yanez, who is Latino, testified that Castile was pulling his gun out of his pocket despite his commands not to do so. The defence also argued Castile was high on marijuana and said that affected his actions.
Castile had a permit for the weapon, and prosecutors questioned whether Yanez ever saw it. They argued that the officer overreacted and that Castile was not a threat.
Castile’s shooting was among a string of killings of black people by police around the US, and the livestreaming of its aftermath by Castile’s girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, attracted even more attention.
The public outcry included protests in Minnesota that shut down highways and surrounded the governor’s mansion. Castile’s family claimed he was profiled because of his race, and the shooting renewed concerns about how police officers interact with minorities.
Minnesota Democratic Governor Mark Dayton also weighed in, saying he did not think the shooting would have happened if Castile had been white.
Castile’s family reacted angrily to the verdict. His mother, Valerie Castile, said the police officer got away with “murder”.
His mother said she is “very disappointed in the system here in the state of Minnesota”.
Yanez was charged with second-degree manslaughter, punishable by up to 10 years in prison, though sentencing guidelines suggest around four years is more likely. He also faced two lesser counts of endangering Castile’s girlfriend and her then 4-year-old daughter for firing his gun into the car near them.
The jury began deliberations on Monday, after just five days of testimony, evidence and arguments. Two of the 12-member jury were black. The rest were white.
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