Philando Castile, a 32-year-old African American man who was shot to death by a police officer in a suburb of Minneapolis, was pulled over by police because he resembled a suspect in a previous armed robbery. His July 7 shooting by Officer Jeronimo Yanez in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, has created a firestorm of outrage led by groups such as Black Lives Matter. Officer Joseph Kauser was with Yanez at the time of the stop.
 
Yanez serves in the St. Anthony police department, which is contracted to patrol the jurisdiction where Castile was shot. 
 
 
On the night of his death, Castile was accompanied in his car by girlfriend Diamond Reynolds and her four-year-old daughter. Reynolds and the child were unhurt after Yanez discharged his service pistol, killing Castile. 
 
Minneapolis/St.Paul KARE television news reported on an audio it obtained in which are purportedly recorded the officers’ discussion of their reasons for stopping Castile. In the recording, an officer is heard to say:
 
“I’m going to stop a car.”
 
“I’m going to check IDs.  I have reason to pull it over.”
 
“The two occupants just look like people that were involved in a robbery.”
 
“The driver looks more like one of our suspects, just ‘cause of the wide set nose.”
 
The KARE report noted that the unauthenticated audio was provided by an anonymous party, but that the license plate number mentioned in the audio did match Castile's car, and a BOLO (Be On the Look Out) alert had been issued about an armed robbery that occurred on July 2. Castile resembled a description of one of two suspects in that convenience store robbery, which occurred just a few blocks from where he was pulled over by police. 
 
A St. Anthony Police Department press release described an armed robbery of a Super USA store in the 2400 block of Larpenteur Avenue, in nearby Lauderdale, at around 7:30 p.m on July 2. A pair of black men took cash from the register and several cartons of Newport cigarettes. Subsequently released stills from CCTV video showed that one of the suspects wore dreadlocks and had a slight beard and mustache. Castile also had dreadlocks and a mustache. 
 
CCTV still from July 2 holdup in Lauderdale MN
 
According to the Star Tribune, Castile had had a valid permit to carry a gun when he was shot and killed. The paper reported, “Although the names of gun permit holders are not public under state law, a source confirmed Castile was issued the permit when he lived in Robbinsdale.” At the time of his death, Castile was a resident of St. Paul, where he worked in a school cafeteria. According to Minnesota state law, gun permit holders are required to inform their local sheriff’s department of any address change. Failure to do so invalidates the permit, therefore raising the question as to whether or not Castile was legally carrying a firearm at the time of his death.
In her video that she livestreamed in the minutes after Castile was shot, Reynolds is heard to say “He’s licensed to carry, he was trying to get his ID, his wallet out of his pocket and he let the officer knew he had a firearm and was reaching for his wallet.” Next to Reynolds in the car was Castile, who was bloodied and dying in the driver’s seat. In the video, some observers have concluded that they can see a portion of a firearm projecting from beneath Castile’s bloodied shirt and resting on his lap.
 
Reynolds makes confusing statements in the video. She described Yanez – the officer who allegedly shot boyfriend Castile – as “Chinese.” Yanez’ attorney has described him as “Mexican,” while media reports have identified him as “Latino.” She is also heard to say that Castile was stopped for a “broken tail-light,” and that there was “weed” in the car.
 
 
Minneapolis attorney Thomas Kelly said on July 10 that Yanez was reacting to "the presence of that gun and the display of that gun" when he opened fire on Castile. Kelly said that Yanez is saddened by the shooting. Kelly is of counsel to Yanez.
 
 
Reports indicate that both he and partner Kauser are on administrative leave while an investigation advances. Yanez has reportedly left his home. The governor of Minnesota has asked for a federal investigation of the incident, having claimed that the shooting is evidence of racism.
 
Castile’s uncle, Clarence, called the traffic stop by the police “racial profiling” in an interview with KARE. "I just thought it was kind of insane to pull somebody over saying they matched a robbery suspect by having flared nostrils. It is kind of hard to see flared nostrils from a car.” Valerie Castile, Castile's mother, told WCCO TV, "He lived by the law and died by the law.” 
 
However, official records show that Castile had a lengthy record of misdemeanor traffic violations, which included driving without a license and driving after license revocation. He also had two minor drug violations involving small amounts of marijuana.
 
So far, there has not been a public call by Castile’s family for the release of the radio dispatch from St. Anthony’s Police department.  In addition, there has not been a public call for the immediate release of the Dash-Cam video recorded by the police vehicles involved.  Members of Castile’s family have successfully raised money from appeals to the public on the GoFundMe website.
 
Castile was described by the St. Paul school system as a “teamworker” in his capacity as a supervisor in a school cafeteria. He graduated high school in St. Paul and was known to be a favorite with students.

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Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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