The Minnesota police officer who pulled over Philando Castile politely told the black driver that his brake lights were out and calmly instructed him not to pull out his handgun before suddenly drawing his own weapon and firing seven rounds into the car, a video showed. The dashboard camera footage taken from St. Anthony police officer Jeronimo Yanez’s squad car illustrated how a simple traffic stop shifted in an instant from a routine exchange to a deadly confrontation.
When Yanez opened fire, another officer near the car jumped back, and Yanez began yelling at the driver. As more police and an ambulance arrived, Yanez could be heard breathing heavily and swearing and trying to explain his actions to fellow officers.
The video was made public Tuesday, just days after the officer was acquitted on all counts in the case. Although the squad-car footage was described repeatedly and was shown to jurors in the courtroom, it had never been released publicly.
The shooting on July 6, 2016, in the St. Paul suburb of Falcon Heights gained widespread attention because Castile’s girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, livestreamed its gruesome aftermath on Facebook. Unlike Reynolds’ video, the squad-car video shows the situation’s quick escalation and the shooting itself. The 29-year-old Yanez, who was found not guilty of manslaughter and other charges, began firing only seconds after Castile told the officer he had a gun.
“Sir, I have to tell you, I do have a firearm on me,” Castile said. Before Castile finished that sentence, Yanez began pulling his weapon out of the holster. Yanez said, “OK. Don’t reach for it then.” There is shouting, and Yanez screamed “Don’t pull it out!” before firing into the car.
Castile, a 32-year-old elementary school cafeteria worker, had a permit to carry the weapon.
The release of the video made some people even angrier about the death. Steven Belton, the black president and CEO of the Minneapolis Urban League, said the video showed “a 21st century lynching” and was “powerfully painful.” He said it’s a reminder of black men “hanging from trees, black men being shot, beaten, stabbed for being black.”
He said Castile was “gunned down like a rabid animal.” Craig Hutchinson, a white employment recruiter from the Minneapolis suburb of Plymouth, said in a tweet to The Associated Press that he was surprised at how quickly the situation intensified.
Hutchinson, who said he has a concealed-carry permit, also said the video left room for reasonable doubt, because it didn’t show where the gun was. He also said Yanez could have acted differently. “If the officer would’ve exercised more caution, it may not have escalated as fast,” he said. Bekuh Sibet, a 29-year-old waitress from nearby Richfield, said it was obvious to her from the video that Castile was complying.
“I feel like it’s 10 times worse now,” said Sibet, who is white. Marcell Lenoir, a 24-year-old insurance worker from suburban Brooklyn Center, referred back to testimony that the officer thought Castile resembled a suspected armed robber. “He already thought in his mind that this was a suspect in a robbery, and he just panicked and he messed up,” said Lenoir, who is mixed race, African-American and white. Yanez testified that Castile ignored his commands not to pull out his gun and he feared for his life.
The footage showed a wide view of the traffic stop and the shooting, with the camera pointed toward Castile’s car. It captured what was said between the two men. The video did not show what happened inside the car or what Yanez saw. It showed Yanez, who is Latino, following Castile’s car, then pulling it over. Yanez approached Castile and asked for a driver’s license and proof of insurance. Castile gave the proof of insurance to Yanez through the driver’s side window, and the officer put it in his pocket.
After the first shot, Castile’s body was thrown to the right. The video showed Yanez’s backup officer, Joseph Kauser, standing on the passenger side of the vehicle, retreating when the shots were fired. After the shooting, the video showed Yanez standing at the car window with his gun drawn for some time. Reynolds’ then-4-year-old daughter started to get out of the car and was grabbed by an officer.
Officers ordered Reynolds out of the car, and she got out, hands held high. Soon, she was heard wailing. A fellow officer spoke repeatedly to Yanez to get him away from the car: “I’m going to take your spot. I’m going to take your spot. Listen, listen, I’m going to take your spot.” Yanez slowly walked away, and another officer said: “You all right? You all right? You’re not hit any, are you?”
Officers pulled Castile from the vehicle and began CPR. Yanez was then off-camera, but was heard talking through his body microphone.
In the video, Yanez was heard telling a supervisor that he didn’t know where Castile’s gun was, then saying that he told Castile to get his hand off it. Yanez testified, “What I meant by that was I didn’t know where the gun was up until I saw it in his right thigh area.”
Yanez’s acquittal prompted days of protests, including one in St. Paul last Friday that attracted thousands and shut down Interstate 94 for hours. Eighteen people were arrested.