ABOVE PHOTO: Philando Castile (Photo: Facebook)
By Kyle Potter
ST. PAUL, Minn. — The minutes after a black Minnesota man was shot and killed during a traffic stop in the Twin Cities — the second fatal shooting in the U.S. this week of a black man by police — were broadcast live by his girlfriend on Facebook. Philando Castile, 32, was shot in the St. Paul suburb of Falcon Heights on Wednesday night.
What follows is a look at what happened and the ongoing investigation:
THE SHOOTING AND VIDEO
Diamond Reynolds, Castile’s girlfriend, said in the initial video and in subsequent interviews that they were driving through Falcon Heights with her 4-year-old daughter in the back seat when they were pulled over by police for what they were told was a broken tail light.
Reynolds said Castile was complying with the officer’s request for identification when he brushed up against his concealed firearm near his back pocket. Soon after informing the officer that he had a legally permitted firearm, Castile was shot four or more times, Reynolds said. The first seconds of her broadcast on Facebook showed Castile first slumping and then sitting motionless in the driver’s seat.
State investigators named Jeronimo Yanez as the officer who fired the fatal shots. Authorities have not confirmed whether Castile had a permit to carry.
Castile, who was just a few days shy of celebrating his 33rd birthday, had worked for St. Paul Public Schools for a decade, recently rising to cafeteria supervisor at a Montessori school, where teachers said he was lovingly called “Mr. Phil” by students.
Aside from a handful of driving-related offenses over the past decade, he did not have a record and there was no indication he’d ever had a tense run-in with police.
Protesters who surrounded the Minnesota governor’s residence Thursday to call for swift action against the officers involved were appalled that Castile’s record was a subject at all.
“I don’t give a damn. He didn’t deserve to die. For a traffic stop?” said Brian Herron, a pastor at a local Baptist church.
Reynolds’ cellphone video showed Castile covered in blood in the seat next to her, the officer screaming expletives after shots were fired and more. The footage also showed Reynolds and her calm interactions with the officer still brandishing a pistol before she later broke down and yelled in despair, hoping Castile had not died.
She told reporters that she spent much of the night at a police station and that she and her daughter were separated as they were pressed for information.
Reynolds said Castile wasn’t her daughter’s birth father but treated them both as family. She described him as her best friend, and was distraught speaking about his death.
Falcon Heights is a small suburb of St. Paul and host to the annual State Fair. A town of just 5,000, it’s also home to a subsection of the massive University of Minnesota campus. Due to its small size, Falcon Heights is served primarily by the nearby St. Anthony Police Department.
Like most of Minnesota, it’s primarily white. On average, median incomes in Falcon Heights are larger than Minnesota as a whole.
The state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension named Jeronimo Yanez and Joseph Kauser as the two officers involved. Both had been with the St. Anthony Police Department for four years and were put on administrative leave, as is standard.
Yanez approached Castile’s car from the driver’s side, and Kauser from the passenger side. Yanez opened fire, striking Castile multiple times, the bureau said.
The agency did not give the officers’ races. Reynolds described the officer who shot Castile as Asian. The St. Anthony Police Department’s 2015 annual report says Yanez volunteered with St. Paul’s Cinco De Mayo celebration, participating in a parade with other members of the National Latino Police Officers Association.
The department’s 2014 report includes a photo of Yanez solemnly standing guard at a memorial for fallen officers at the state Capitol.
Reynolds’ roughly 9-minute feed, which was archived, could play a major role in the investigation. What other footage could be available to investigators remains to be seen.
The BCA said several videos, including squad car video of the incident, have been collected, but that St. Anthony officers don’t wear body cameras.