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16 Jun, 2017 20:03

Not guilty: Minnesota jury acquits officer who shot Philando Castile

Not guilty: Minnesota jury acquits officer who shot Philando Castile

A Minnesota jury found St. Anthony police officer Jeronimo Yanez not guilty in the 2016 shooting of motorist Philando Castile. The aftermath of the shooting was live-streamed on Facebook by Castile’s girlfriend, attracting national attention.

Jurors reached the verdict shortly after 2pm local time Friday, after nearly 30 hours of deliberation, during which they made two requests to re-read the transcript of Yanez’s testimony. The judge denied both requests.

“I thought I was going to die,” Yanez testified on June 9 before a packed courtroom. “I had no other choice. I was forced to engage Mr. Castile. He was not complying with my directions.”

Asked if he wanted to shoot Castile, the police officer began to cry, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. “I did not want to shoot Mr. Castile at all,” he said. “Those were not my intentions.”

Prosecutors argued that Yanez, who is Mexican-American, racially profiled the African-American Castile, when he pulled him over for a nonfunctioning brake light. Yanez testified that he also wanted to investigate whether Castile was a suspect in the armed robbery of a nearby convenience store four days earlier.

Castile had a licensed handgun on him, and Yanez shot him seven times. The aftermath of the shooting was live-streamed by Castile’s girlfriend Diamond Reynolds, who was in the car at the time. The shooting prompted nationwide protests.

The defense argued that Castile was under the influence of marijuana and did not comply with the officer’s instructions. Castile, 32, worked as a school cafeteria supervisor in St. Paul.

Several members of the Castile family screamed obscenities and cried after the verdict was read, and his mother, Valerie Castile, had to be restrained, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported.

Valerie and her daughter Allysza Castile, 24, spoke outside the courtroom, expressing anger and frustration that the judicial system failed.

“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,” Valerie said. "My son loved this city, and the city killed my son and the murderer gets away.”

She said that she would always say that her son was murdered, despite the not guilty verdict.

Allysza accused Yanez of lying on the stand "three, four, five times," and said she couldn't understand why the jurors believed him.

"For them jurors to not have enough empathy and conscious to do the rights thing, that just baffles me," she said.

While the justice system may have failed Castile, Valerie said, Yanez will still "have to face his Creator."

"He will not get away with divine justice," she said. "I hope he die tonight."