Minnesotans Protest Verdict After Acquittal of Officer Yanez


ST. PAUL – Hundreds of Minnesotans protest a verdict in the Philando Castile shooting Friday evening. The verdict found a Minnesota police officer not guilty on all counts in his deadly shooting during a traffic stop in 2016.

Demonstrators gathered at the Minnesota State Capitol holding signs that included the phrases “black lives matter,” and “no justice, no peace,” and hundreds marched toward the nearby Cathedral of Saint Paul, reported NPR.

Liz Sawyer of the Star Tribune reported via Twitter chants of “No justice, no peace, prosecute the police,” as marchers headed for University Ave. early in the protest.

Apparently the protesters failed to understand there was a prosecution, and 12 jurors determined Officer Jeronimo Yanez was not guilty.

The Minnesota State Patrol estimated there to be about 500 protesters, although Sawyer reported the number in the thousands.

Some of the disenchanted people made their way onto Interstate 94 and blocked traffic for more than an hour. Shortly before 1 a.m. Central time, the State Patrol tweeted that they were arresting protesters “who failed to leave the roadway.”

For the most part, police reported the highway was clear of protesters after midnight, according to the Associated Press.

After five days of deliberations, the jury found Yanez not guilty of all counts in the July 2016 shooting of Castile in Falcon Heights, a suburb of St. Paul.

“The system continues to fail black people, and it will continue to fail you all,” Valerie Castile, Philando’s mother, told reporters after the verdict. “My son loved this city and this city killed my son and the murderer gets away. … I’m mad as hell right now.”

Conversely, the Yanez family probably disagrees with her, yet their voice isn’t heard.

Castile’s sister Allysza, weeping, said, “He didn’t deserve to die the way he did, and I will never have faith in this system.” Castile family lawyer Glenda Hatchett vowed to continue fighting.

In a hotly debated incident like this, the family of the officer needs to find shelter and protection due to the hostile onslaught.

“Yanez stared ahead with no reaction as the verdict was read,” the AP reported. “Afterward, one of his attorneys, Tom Kelly, said the defense was ‘satisfied.’ ”

The City of St. Anthony said after the verdict that Yanez “will not return to active duty.” In a statement, the city said that it “has concluded that the public will be best served if Officer Yanez is no longer a police officer in our city.” It said that Yanez would receive a “voluntary separation agreement.”

Yanez said in court that “he was forced to shoot Castile because the driver was not complying with the officer’s commands and was reaching for a gun.” Yanez previously testified he had stopped Castile because the driver resembled a suspect in a local convenience store robbery days earlier, NPR reported.

Defense attorneys argued that Castile was culpably negligent in the shooting because he volunteered that he possessed a gun without disclosing that he had a permit to carry it, that he reached for it instead of keeping his hands visible, and that he was high on marijuana, rendering him incapable of following Yanez’s order not to reach for the gun. The Star Tribune reported Yanez testified last week that he fired because he feared for his life.

A gun was recovered from Castile’s right front shorts pocket as medics and police prepared to move him onto a backboard. Castile had a permit to carry the handgun.

The shooting last July sparked protests, and Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton described the incident and its aftermath as “absolutely appalling at all levels.”

Castile was well-known among the 500 students he worked with, according to St. Paul Public Schools. They said the verdict “may bring strong emotions” for those who knew “Mr. Phil,” whom they describe as a “beloved SPPS employee.” The school district said it was making counselors available for students and staff over the summer.

So while Minnesotans protest, the feds will ponder other options. The U.S. attorney’s office for the District of Minnesota, which designated federal prosecutor Jeffrey Paulsen to assist with the case, issued a statement Friday saying they are “assessing whether any additional federal review is justified.”

(Photo: Liz Sawyer Twitter)

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