ST. PAUL, Minn. — A Minnesota police officer was acquitted of manslaughter Friday in the fatal shooting of a Philando Castile, a black motorist whose girlfriend streamed the aftermath live on Facebook.
Jeronimo Yanez was also cleared of two lesser charges in the July traffic stop in a St. Paul suburb. Jurors deliberated for about 29 hours over five days before reaching the verdict in the death of Castile, who was shot just seconds after informing Yanez that he was carrying a gun.
Castile's family members reacted angrily, with his mother, Valerie, standing and swearing as the verdict was read. She and other family members immediately tried to leave the courtroom, and did so after security officers briefly barred the way.
Outside the courthouse, Valerie Castile said Yanez got away with "murder," noting that her son was wearing a seatbelt and in a car with his girlfriend and her then-4-year-old daughter when he was shot.
"I will continue to say murder," she said. "I am so very, very, very ... disappointed in the system here in the state of Minnesota. Nowhere in the world do you die from being honest and telling the truth."
"He didn't deserve to die the way he did," Philando Castile's sister, Allysza, said, through tears. "I will never have faith in the system."
Yanez, who is Latino, testified that Castile was pulling his gun out of his pocket despite his commands not to do so. The defense also argued Castile was high on marijuana and said that affected his actions.
Yanez stared ahead with no reaction as the verdict was read. Afterward, one of his attorneys, Tom Kelly, said the defense was "satisfied."
"We were confident in our client. We felt all along his conduct was justified. However that doesn't take away from the tragedy of the event," Kelly said.
Prosecutors declined to comment.
Castile had a permit for the weapon, and prosecutors questioned whether Yanez ever saw it. They argued that the officer overreacted and that Castile was not a threat.
Juror Dennis Ploussard said the jury was split 10-2 early this week in favor of acquittal. They spent a lot of time dissecting the "culpable negligence" requirement for conviction, and the last two holdouts eventually agreed Friday on acquittal. He declined to say whether he thought Yanez acted appropriately, but said the jury sympathizes with the Castile family.
"We struggled with it. I struggled with it. It was very, very hard," Ploussard said, adding that he thought the jury delivered the right verdict.
He would not identify the two early holdouts, but said they were not the jury's only two black members. The rest of the jurors were white. None was Latino.
Castile's shooting was among a string of killings of blacks by police around the U.S., and the livestreaming of its aftermath by Castile's girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, attracted even more attention. The public outcry included protests in Minnesota that shut down highways and surrounded the governor's mansion. Castile's family claimed he was profiled because of his race, and the shooting renewed concerns about how police officers interact with minorities. Minnesota Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton also weighed in, saying he did not think the shooting would have happened if Castile had been white.
Yanez was charged with second-degree manslaughter, punishable by up to 10 years in prison, though sentencing guidelines suggest around four years is more likely. He also faced two lesser counts of endangering Castile's girlfriend and her then-4-year-old daughter for firing his gun into the car near them.