Questions about the Philando Castile Shooting Answered

The 2016 death of Philando Castile continued the conversation of the lethal consequences of police violence. Like with many incidents of police use of force reports, there are many questions about the nature of Castile’s death. Even after the verdict was announced, people are looking for answers to understand Philando Castile’s horrific shooting.

Here are answers to the questions that continue to swirl Philando Castile’s shooting.

Who Was Philando Castile?

32-year-old Philando Castile was a native of St. Louis, Missouri. He was working as a cafeteria supervisor at J.J. Hill Montessori Magnet School in Saint Paul, Minnesota at the time of his death.

On July 6, 2016, Castile and his girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds were driving in Falcon Heights, Minnesota with her four-year-old daughter when Officer Jeronimo Yanez and his partner, Joseph Kauser pulled them over. The incident was recorded by the police dashcam, and Reynolds streamed the aftermath of the shooting on Facebook Live.

Yanez asked for Castile’s license and registration. As Castile reached for his wallet, he told Yanez that he has a firearm, and a permit to carry it.

Yanez, believing Castile was reaching for his gun, opened fire on him. Castile was reportedly shot around seven times.

In Reynolds’ viral Facebook video, she says that he was reaching for his ID and driver’s license. Castile was bleeding as Reynolds spoke, and her daughter was in the backseat during the shooting, before Kauser took the child to the squad car.

Castile was taken to a nearby hospital where he was pronounced dead. His death. and the videos that documented the incident. sparked an outcry about the way law enforcement uses lethal force against black people.

Why Was Philando Castile Pulled Over?

In her Facebook Live video, Diamond Reynolds said that officers stopped them because of a broken tail light. But Reynolds, and reporters on scene, said that the lights were working fine.

A police audio released later revealed that Castile may have been stopped on suspicion of a robbery. An officer radioed a nearby squad car about two people in a car who look like they were connected to the crime.

“The driver looks more like one of our suspects, just because of the wide-set nose. I couldn’t get a good look at the passenger,” was heard on the police audio. The officer said on the radio that he’d check their ID when they make a stop.

The officers in the police audio, Yanez and Kauser, pulled Castile’s vehicle over. Soon after, Philando Castile was fatally shot.

Philando Castile Shooting

Investigators process the crime scene (Photo: Tony Webster/Flickr.com)

Where Was Castile’s Gun?

The defense argued that Castile was reaching for his firearm, despite Officer Yanez warning him not to. Reynolds claimed he was reaching for his wallet.

This video may show violent or graphic content.
Dashcam video of Philando Castile shooting

Joseph Dutton, a police use of force expert, said during the manslaughter trial against Jeronimo Yanez that Castile was reaching for his handgun. The gun was later found in Castile’s right pocket.

What Was Castile Reaching For?

Yanez claims that he thought Castile had a gun, and was going to shoot. Dutton deduced that Castile was reaching for his gun when Yanez told him that the victim’s hand was in a “C-grip.”  Typically used with long guns, the C grip is the way a shooter holds the barrel of a gun to have a better grip for more accurate aim, or less pull-back. Dutton added that he knew Castile was reaching for the gun, but couldn’t tell if he was going to shoot.

Prosecutors, however, argued that the gun didn’t have a round in the chamber, and Castile was actually trying to unbuckle his seatbelt so he could get his wallet. Reynolds insisted Castile was getting his identification from his wallet.

Who Filmed the Video of Castile’s Shooting?

The events after Castile was shot was streamed live in a 10-minute Facebook video by Reynolds. Towards the end of the video, Reynolds steps out of the car, and is ordered to get on her knees. She is handcuffed while her daughter’s voice can be heard.

Diamond Reynolds at protest

Diamond Reynolds speaks to a crowd(Photo: Stephen Maturen/Stringer/Getty Images)

The dashcam video released after the incident showed Yanez approach the car, and ask for license and registration. It also shows EMTs trying to help a bleeding Castile.

What Was Yanez’s Statement about the Incident?

Jeronimo Yanez said he had no choice. “I thought he had a gun in his hand,” Yanez said, adding that he feared for his life and the lives of the woman and child in the car with Castile.

“I thought I was gonna die. And, I was scared because, I didn’t know if he was gonna, I didn’t know what he was gonna do.” So, Yanez opened fire in response.

Was Castile a Threat to Officers?

Yanez claims he smelled burnt marijuana in Castile’s vehicle, and felt his life was in danger. Some experts believe he instinctively responded to what he perceived as a threat.

But prosecutors argued Yanez perceived a threat where there was none. Castile mentioned that he had a firearm on him with a license, in an attempt to de-escalate any sense of threat.

Autopsy results revealed that Castile had marijuana in his system. However, a toxicology expert revealed that there’s no way to tell if Castile was high at the time of shooting.

If he intended any harm, the prosecutors argued, then he wouldn’t have mentioned having a weapon. He didn’t put up any resistance, complain, or threaten to warrant a need for alarm.

What Was the Verdict?

Yanez was facing second-degree manslaughter, and reckless discharge of a firearm. If convicted, he could spend up to 10 years in prison. On June 16, 2017, he was acquitted of all charges.

His acquittal disappointed Castile’s family, and sparked a wave of protests. Castile’s family was, however, satisfied that Yanez won’t be serving in the police department anymore.

Philando Castile Shooting Protests

Photo: Stephen Maturen / Stringer/Getty Images

Was There a Settlement?

Castile’s family reached a settlement worth $2.995 million with the city of St. Anthony days after Yanez was acquitted of manslaughter charges.

Reynolds, who was handcuffed during the ordeal, sought compensation for emotional distress and false arrest. She reached a settlement of a combined $800,000. $675,000 would be paid by the city of St. Anthony, and an insurance trust paid $125,000 on behalf of Roseville.

Where Is Jeronimo Yanez Now?

On the same day he was acquitted, Yanez accepted a voluntary separation agreement with St. Anthony Police. Per the agreement, he received a sum of $48,500 in exchange of termination of his employment with the city.

After his acquittal, Yanez listed his home for sale. His current status is unknown. But his case still haunts the St. Anthony Police Department.

New policies were implemented by the department to reduce the financial burden in such incidents. In 2018, St. Anthony police told its officers to participate in the city’s annual PRIDE Parade without uniform. The police participation in 2017’s parade was met with backlash because it was only a few days after Yanez’s acquittal.

Where Is Diamond Reynolds Now?

Reynolds accepted a settlement stemming from the July 2016 incident. However, she once again had a run-in with a law in March 2017.

Reynolds was convicted of a misdemeanor in an attack unrelated to the Castile case. She allegedly attacked a woman with a hammer, and was facing assault charges. She was found guilty of fifth-degree assault.


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