Cop who fatally shot Philando Castile testifies he saw gun, despite contrary audio

Cop who fatally shot Philando Castile testifies he saw gun, despite contrary audio
A Minnesota cop has testified that he was “scared to death” before he fatally shot Philando Castile when he saw the the man reach for his gun during a traffic stop. Officer Jeronimo Yanez was asked to clarify audio recorded at the scene.

Yanez, 29, told a St. Paul jury on Friday that he was feared for his own life when he pulled Castile, 32, over last July. He testified that he saw Castile reaching for his gun and was forced to fire on him who did not obey his orders.

"I thought I was going to die," Yanez said, according to the Minnesota Star Tribune. "I had no other choice. I was forced to engage Mr. Castile. He was not complying with my directions."

On July 6, 2016, Yanez and another officer stopped Castile for a broken taillight. Moments after approaching the car, Yanez fired seven shots, striking Castile five times.

Castile’s girlfriend and four-year-old daughter were also in the car at the time of the shooting.

Yanez has been charged with second-degree manslaughter and reckless discharge of a firearm. He faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted of second-degree manslaughter.

On Friday, the St. Anthony police officer testified that he had been on the lookout for two suspects who had robbed a gas station four days prior. Yanez watched a video of two black men with guns and was told to be on alert for the suspects.

When Castile drove past him, Yanez said they made eye contact and Castile gave him a “deer in the headlights look.” Yanez said he had "strong suspicions" that Castile was one of the suspects, according to the Minnesota Star Tribune.

He radioed his partner, Joseph Kauser, to inform him that he was stopping the car because the “occupants just look like people that were involved in a robbery,” according to the Star Tribune.

When he pulled the car over, Yanez said he could smell marijuana coming from Castile's car. After Yanez asked for his license and registration, Castile informed the officer that he had a gun.

Immediately after, Yanez told the jury that he saw Castile reaching for his gun. When he saw the metal of the gun, Yanez told the jury, “my family popped into my head. My wife. My baby girl," according to the Minnesota Star Tribune.

Witnesses testified that the gun was in Castile’s right front pocket when paramedics removed him from the vehicle.

The jury also viewed video evidence from the squad car, which recorded Yanez telling a superior officer that he did not know where the gun was.

“I don’t know where the gun was. He didn’t tell me where the (expletive) gun was,” Yanez said, according to the Associated Press. “I told him to take his (expletive) hand off the gun.”

When asked to explain the recording, Yanez told the jury, "What I meant by that was I didn't know where the gun was up until I saw it in his right thigh area,” according to the Associated Press

Prosecutors called Yanez’s actions unreasonable. They described Castile as being cooperative when he told the officer that he had a gun on his person.

"Sir, I have to tell you, I do have a firearm on me,” Castile told Yanez before he was shot, according to the Associated Press.

Prosecutors told the jury that Castile had a permit for the gun.

The squad car video also recorded Castile’s last words before Yanez opened fire. Castile can be heard telling the officer: "I'm not pulling it [the gun] out.”

Emanuel Kapelsohn, a use-of-force expert, argued that Yanez was justified to open fire if he had reasonable belief that Castile was drawing a firearm.

“Apparently, the officer perceived that Mr. Castile was pulling the gun out,” Kapelsohn said, according to the Star Tribune. “He’s justified in [using deadly force], and he’s trained to do so. He’d be remiss if he didn’t do so.”

Defense attorneys argued that Castile was under the influence of marijuana at the time of the traffic stop and it affected his responses to the officer’s orders. The autopsy report found traces of marijuana in Castile’s system.

Castile’s girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, live streamed the aftermath on Facebook Live, showing the bloodied Castile and his upset four-year-old daughter in the back seat. The video quickly went viral and sparked protests across the nation.

When she took the stand on Tuesday, Reynolds was asked why she recorded the incident.

“Because I know that the people are not protected against the police,” Reynolds said, according to the Associated Press. “I wanted to make sure if I died in front of my daughter that people would know the truth.”