Crime, Law and Justice

Court orders state to reconsider teaching license for ex-cop who killed Castile

Jeronimo Yanez and attorney Tom Kelly leave the Ramsey Co. Courthouse.
Jeronimo Yanez, left, and his attorney Tom Kelly, right, leave the Ramsey County Courthouse in 2017, in St. Paul, Minn. Yanez was acquitted of manslaughter in the killing of Philando Castile. The former officer is seeking a substitute teaching license.
David Joles | Star Tribune via AP

The Minnesota Court of Appeals on Monday ordered a state board to reconsider issuing a substitute teaching license to the former police officer who killed Philando Castile.

A jury in 2017 acquitted Jeronimo Yanez of second-degree manslaughter and a firearms charge in the shooting death the previous year of Philando Castile, a St. Paul school cafeteria supervisor, along Larpenteur Avenue.

The city of St. Anthony reached a $3 million settlement with Castile’s family, and Yanez resigned from the police department.

The former officer, now 34, was already working as a part-time Spanish teacher at a parochial school when he applied in early 2020 for a three-year short-call substitute teacher's license.

The Minnesota Professional Educator Licensing and Standards Board denied his application on the grounds that the shooting and the traffic stop that preceded it evidenced "immoral character and conduct" under the state law that governs teacher licensure.

An administrative law judge agreed, but in an appellate opinion, Judge Susan Segal wrote that the statute’s language is "impermissibly vague" and “vulnerable to the caprice of ever-changing public opinion.”

Segal did not reverse the licensing board's decision but ordered the panel to reconsider it under a narrower reading of the law.

On his application for a teaching license, Yanez answered yes when asked whether he’d ever been acquitted of an offense involving “homicide, assault or any other crime involving violence.”

Yanez stated that he’d been “wrongly accused of a crime while on duty as a St. Anthony Police Officer and was acquitted.”

The administrative law judge who heard Yanez’s appeal last year heard testimony from six people, including St. Paul Public Schools Superintendent Joe Gothard, who testified as an expert witness and said that the pain of Castile’s death remains in the school community.

In a written report to the board, Gothard said that “no school-aged child should have a licensed educator who took the life of a Black man in the way [Yanez] did when he killed Mr. Castile.”

The principal of the parochial school where Yanez worked testified in support of Yanez’s license application. The principal, who’s not named in the appellate opinion, said that he rarely gave top performance ratings to new teachers, but he gave one to Yanez for strengthening the school’s Spanish program.