Lawyer for Officer Who Shot Philando Castile says Officer Reacted to Gun, not Race

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Jeronimo Yanez, the police officer who killed a black driver during a suburban Minnesota traffic stop this week, reacted to the man’s gun — not his race — his attorney said Saturday. 

St. Anthony Police Officer Yanez was reacting to “the presence of that gun and the display of that gun” when he opened fire on and killed Philando Castile, Minneapolis attorney Thomas Kelly told the Associated Press in an interview Saturday.

Kelly declined to further elaborate to the AP how Castile, 32, displayed the weapon or the events that led up to the deadly Wednesday traffic stop.

Diamond Reynolds, Castile’s girlfriend who was a passenger in the car, streamed the direct aftermath of the shooting live on Facebook. Reynolds said Castile was shot several times after telling the officer he had a gun and a permit to carry it. She also said Castile was shot while reaching for his wallet.

But Kelly maintains Yanez “was reacting to the actions of the driver.”

“This had nothing to do with race. This had everything to do with the presence of a gun,” Kelly said.

Yanez, who is Latino and has served on the St. Anthony Police Force for four years, is distraught and saddened over the shooting, Kelly said.

The shooting took place in St. Paul suburb of Falcon Heights, a mostly white community of 5,000, served primarily by the nearby St. Anthony Police Department.

Authorities say that during the traffic stop, Yanez approached Castile’s car from the driver’s side and another officer, Joseph Kauser, approached from the passenger side. Yanez opened fire, striking the driver Castile “multiple times.”

Neither Reynolds, nor her daughter in the car were injured. Castile was transported to a medical center where he was pronounced dead.

Yanez and Kauser were put on “standard” administrative leave, as the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) conducts “an independent investigation into the incident,” according to a news release by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety.

The BCA said “several” videos, including squad car video, “have been collected as evidence.” St. Anthony Police Department officers do not wear body cameras, the BCA release noted, and a gun was recovered on the scene.

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Source: USA Today |  Bryan Alexander