Philando Castile shooting: Police officer faces manslaughter charge

Protesters hang image of Philando Castile on gates of governor's residence in St Paul, Minnesota. 24 July 2016

A US police officer who fatally shot a black man in Minnesota in July has been charged with second-degree manslaughter, prosecutors say.

Officer Jeronimo Yanez opened fire on 32-year-old Philando Castile after stopping his car in Falcon Heights, St Paul.

The aftermath was streamed live on Facebook by Mr Castile’s girlfriend who was a passenger in the car.

The death prompted widespread protests in St Paul.

The killing is one of a series of deaths of black men and boys at the hands of police – which has fuelled claims of institutionalised racism in US society.

File image of St Anthony police officer Jeronimo YanezImage copyrightAP
Image captionLawyers for officer Jeronimo Yanez say he reacted to the presence of a gun in Mr Castile’s car

Announcing the charge on Wednesday, district prosecutor John Choi said that evidence, including video from a police car, showed that when the officer approached the car, Mr Castile had calmly told him that he was carrying a gun.

Mr Choi said the officer told Mr Castile not to pull the gun out and Mr Castile and his girlfriend both said that he wasn’t. He said the officer then screamed, drew his gun and fired seven shots.

He said that as Mr Castile was dying, he uttered his final words: “I wasn’t reaching for it.”

Mr Choi said that “unreasonable fear” on the part of a police officer could not justify the use of deadly force.

Media caption“You shot four bullets into him, sir” – Philando Castile’s girlfriend, Lavish Reynolds, live-streamed the aftermath of the shooting

Speaking after the shooting, Mr Castile’s girlfriend said he was shot while reaching for his ID after telling the police officer he had a gun and a permit for it.

Lawyers for Mr Yanez, who is Latino, have said that he reacted to the presence of a gun in the car. They say he stopped Mr Castile because he appeared to be a possible match for an armed robbery suspect.

But the district prosecutor said on Wednesday that Mr Castile was not a suspect in that robbery.

Mr Castile’s family say he was racially profiled.

Mr Yanez is due to make his first court appearance on Friday. If found guilty, he faces a maximum prison sentence of 10 years.

Mr Castile’s death led to angry protests outside the governor’s mansion and another demonstration that shut down a main highway in St Paul for hours.