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Minnesota City To Dismiss Officer Acquitted In Shooting Of Philando Castile

Jun 16, 2017
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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Not guilty - that's the verdict today in the trial of a Minnesota police officer who killed a black driver nearly a year ago, sparking national protests. Officer Geronimo Yanez shot at Philando Castile seven times during a traffic stop. As Castile sat bleeding to death, his girlfriend began filming. She streamed the video to Facebook Live. Millions of people saw it.

NPR's David Schaper has been covering jury deliberations this week and joins us now from Saint Paul. David, Yanez faced manslaughter charges, and he was acquitted. How did Castile's family react?

DAVID SCHAPER, BYLINE: Well, Ari, there was an audible and angry outburst in the courtroom from Castile's mother, Valerie Castile. She swore. She was quite upset. She and other family members and supporters cried both inside the courtroom and then later outside of the courthouse. She did speak with reporters outside of the courthouse. And as the news seemed to sink in of this not-guilty verdict, she became enraged.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

VALERIE CASTILE: My son loved this state. He had one tattoo on his body, and it was of the Twin Cities, the state of Minnesota with TC on it. My son loved this city, and this city killed my son.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: That's right.

CASTILE: And a murderer gets away. Are you kidding me right now? We're not evolving as a civilization. We're devolving.

SHAPIRO: David, what can you tell us about the jury's deliberations?

SCHAPER: Well, the prosecution had to prove that Officer Yanez acted with culpable negligence in shooting the 32-year-old Castile. And it really came down to whether the jury believed Yanez when he testified that he was scared for his life and thought Castile was grabbing for his gun as he sat in that car.

The jury did not arrive to this unanimous verdict very quickly or easily. They started deliberating on Monday. By Wednesday, they appeared deadlocked. The judge called them back into the courtroom and reread a portion of the instructions to them. Then, even this morning, they wanted to be reread the transcript of the officer's testimony. The judge could not honor that request, but they did continue deliberating several more hours before reaching this verdict this afternoon.

SHAPIRO: Has Officer Yanez had any reaction to the verdict?

SCHAPER: Well, he did seem a bit relieved, but he did not talk to reporters as he left the courthouse. One of his defense attorneys, however, did. Tom Kelly said that this court, this trial showed that this is - that the system worked as it should in this case.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

THOMAS KELLY: It was thoroughly litigated, fairly litigated and fairly defended. And so nobody should have an adverse reaction to this. This was a fair trial all the way around.

SHAPIRO: David, the video of Castile's death has been watched so many times. It was so powerful. It led to several days of protests. Are protests planned again?

SCHAPER: Yeah. There are community activists and supporters of the family who are planning to hold a rally around the state capitol in Saint Paul tonight. It's not really clear how this protest will proceed, but local and state police are taking pretty hefty precautions.

Last summer when there were demonstrations after the shooting and that video was just so raw and just touched a nerve with so many people, the protesters spilled into the area expressways, and they shut down the highway, really tying up traffic. That happened several times after the shooting. And area authorities are concerned that that could indeed happen again now that there is a not-guilty verdict on all the counts in this trial.

SHAPIRO: And is this the end for this case? Does Yanez go back on the job?

SCHAPER: No, actually, just in the last hour or two, the city of Saint Anthony has released a statement saying that Officer Yanez will not return to active duty on the police force there. Saint Anthony is the suburb where he worked. And he won't return to the police force. The city has concluded in this statement that the public would be best served if Officer Yanez is no longer a police officer in that city. And it's negotiating a voluntary separation agreement with Yanez.

SHAPIRO: That's NPR's David Schaper. Thanks a lot.

SCHAPER: Thank you, Ari. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.