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Prosecutor undecided on grand jury for Castile shooting, urges patience

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John J. Choi speaks about Philando Castile.
Ramsey County Attorney John Choi called the fatal police shooting of Philando Castile "tragic and sad in so many ways."
Evan Frost | MPR News

Ramsey County Attorney John Choi said Friday he understands the public anger over the Philando Castile police shooting case but asked people to let the investigation run its course and said he hasn't decided if he'd seek a grand jury.

Choi's office will get the case once the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension completes its work. Choi would then need to consider whether to ask a grand jury to review the case for possible charges against the officer or make that decision within his department. 

Castile was shot by a St. Anthony police officer Wednesday night during a traffic stop in Falcon Heights. The aftermath was captured on live video streamed on Facebook, helping to fuel protests in Minnesota and nationwide.

The crowd at the governor's residence.
Protesters assembled in front of the governor's residence to protest the killing of Philando Castile on Thursday.
Christopher Juhn for MPR News

Police shooting cases traditionally go to grand juries, although Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman earlier this year chose not to send the Jamar Clark police shooting case to a grand jury. His office made the decision on its own and ultimately chose not to pursue charges against the Minneapolis officers, concluding the shooting was justified under state law.

Choi told reporters that he's talked to Freeman about a potential grand jury decision but added that he needs "time and space" and thought before deciding.

He acknowledged that "it is a very difficult standard" to meet to bring criminal charges against a police officer in Minnesota. But he vowed that if his office or a grand jury concluded the Castile case met that standard "we will prosecute this case to the fullest extent of the law."

A man holds a Black Lives Matter sign.
A man holds a Black Lives Matter sign on top of the fence in front of the governor's residence on Thursday.
Christopher Juhn for MPR News

He said he didn't know when the BCA would finish its work. He declined substantial comment on the case beyond saying the widely circulated Facebook video of the traffic stop's bloody aftermath would no doubt be part of the evidence considered in deciding whether to prosecute.

Regardless of the outcome, he said the community needs to come together to improve police-community relations. 

"We need to come together as a community, law enforcement included, to improve our practices and procedures so we don't experience these tragedies ever again."