Defense attorneys: Police officer acted properly in traffic stop that ended in fatal shooting

Officer Jeronimo Yanez
Booking photo for St. Anthony police officer Jeronimo Yanez
Ramsey County Sheriff's Office

Attorneys for St. Anthony police officer Jeronimo Yanez filed a memo Tuesday arguing that he acted properly before fatally shooting Philando Castile last summer.

Yanez shot and killed Castile, a 32-year-old school cafeteria supervisor, during traffic stop in Falcon Heights on the night of July 6.

Defense attorneys argue that Yanez did everything correctly when he pulled Castile over that evening. Yanez faces a second-degree manslaughter charge and felony firearm charges in the shooting.

The defense, which has already asked for charges to be dismissed, argued in their memo that the officer's actions were justified because Castile reached for his gun. Prosecutors say Castile handed over his insurance card after being pulled over, and told the officer he had a legal gun permit and was armed.

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Yanez said, "OK, don't reach for it then." Castile told Yanez he wasn't pulling out the gun. Yanez screamed, "Don't pull it out," and took his firearm out of the holster. He fired.

Defense attorneys cite an interview Yanez gave to investigators, saying, "Castile had no regard for what I was saying. Didn't care what I was saying. He still reached down." Prosecutors in the case have argued Castile was likely reaching for his wallet.

Minnesota law justifies the use of deadly force by a police officer, Ramsey County Attorney John Choi said when he announced the charges in November, only when it's necessary to protect the officer or others from great bodily harm or death. He said Yanez's use of force — he shot Castile seven times — was not justified.

The defense attorneys' memo also argues against the prosecution's earlier assertion that Yanez didn't conduct the proper type of traffic stop in the case. The officer's attorneys say Yanez suspected Castile had been involved in an earlier robbery, but needed to take a good look at him first, so he stopped him for a broken brake light.

The aftermath of the shooting was captured and streamed live on Facebook by Castile's girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, who was a passenger in the car. She said that Yanez shot Castile several times while he reached for his ID, and that Castile had told the officer he had a legal gun permit and was armed. The Facebook video attracted attention around the world.

Yanez is set to appear at a hearing Feb. 15.