ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) – A Minnesota police officer who fatally shot a black motorist told a supervisor on the scene that he didn’t know where the motorist’s gun was, but added that he told the motorist to get his hand off the firearm, according to audio recorded after the shooting.
The audio is key evidence in the manslaughter trial of Officer Jeronimo Yanez, who shot Philando Castile last July in a St. Paul suburb. Prosecutors argue Yanez acted unreasonably; his attorneys say he feared for his life and made a split-second decision in the presence of a gun.
Yanez and another officer had stopped Castile over a broken taillight when the 32-year-old elementary school cafeteria worker informed Yanez he was carrying a gun. Within seconds of hearing that, Yanez fired seven shots and Castile was mortally wounded.
The shooting was one in a string involving police and black men nationally, and drew added attention because Castile’s girlfriend streamed the aftermath on Facebook as he lay dying. Castile’s family claimed he was profiled because of his race.
Prosecutors and defense attorneys have given different narratives about whether or not Yanez saw Castile’s gun.
The audio of the encounter came from squad car video, which does not show Yanez after the shooting but picks up his voice from his body microphone. He is heard swearing, yelling and breathing heavily. He tells a supervising officer that Castile went to grab something and that Castile’s grip seemed wider than a wallet would be.
“I don’t know where the gun was,” Yanez says. “He didn’t tell me where the (expletive) gun was.” Seconds later, he added, “I told him to take his (expletive) hand off the gun.”
The officer who was with Yanez, Joseph Kauser, testified that Yanez later told him he had seen a gun on Castile, who had a permit for the weapon.
Kauser said he didn’t see a gun from his vantage point on the passenger side of Castile’s car. But Kauser also said he was watching Castile’s passengers – his girlfriend Diamond Reynolds and Reynolds’ then-4-year-old daughter – rather than the driver.
An officer who arrived on the scene, Roseville police Officer Juan Toran, said he performed CPR on Castile. As paramedics were rolling Castile onto a backboard, Toran said he saw the gun slide out of Castile’s front right pocket. Toran said he didn’t even have to reach into the pocket to grab it.
But St. Paul firefighter Eric Torgerson, a paramedic, testified that he saw an officer reach deeply into the pocket to retrieve the pistol.
A lab supervisor with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension testified Tuesday that Castile’s pistol had a loaded magazine, but no round in the chamber. Lindsey Garfield was expected to continue testifying Wednesday morning.
Yanez, 29, who is Latino, is also charged with two counts of dangerous discharge of a firearm for endangering Reynolds and her daughter.
Earlier Tuesday, Reynolds cried as squad car video, her Facebook video and still images of Castile were shown. Asked why she took out her phone and started recording, Reynolds said she feared for her own life.
“Because I know that the people are not protected against the police,” Reynolds said. “I wanted to make sure if I died in front of my daughter that people would know the truth.”
A jury of 15, including three alternates, is hearing the case in Ramsey County District Court. Two of the 15 are black.
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