ST. PAUL, Minn. - A Ramsey County judge has denied a motion to dismiss the case against a Minnesota police officer who shot and killed a black man during a July traffic stop.
St. Anthony police Officer Jeronimo Yanez is charged with manslaughter and other counts in the July 6 shooting of Philando Castile. On Wednesday Yanez's defense team and prosecutors faced off in Ramsey County Court, each making their arguments to Judge William H. Leary on the motion to drop charges in this high-profile case.
Prosecutors maintain that defense arguments on the validity of the charges against Yanez need to be made at trial, not now. Judge Leary listened to attorneys on both sides give their take of the in-car video from Yanez's squad car, which has been sealed under court order. The judge will view it later this morning and make his ruling shortly afterwards.
Defense attorneys maintain that Yanez told Castile "Don't reach for it" four times, and that he had no choice but to shoot him. They also say the officer reached into the vehicle to try and prevent Castile from grabbing his weapon. "This was not a reach for the wallet, it was a reach for the gun," defense attorney Paul Engh argued. "The fact he was impaired is critical," referring to the fact Castile tested positive for the presence of THC in his body.
The judge's reasoning -- disagreement lies in interpretation of Castile's actions. And if jury accepts state's argument, state could prevail— Lou Raguse (@LouRaguse) February 15, 2017
Prosecutors have a different take on the events that fateful night, admitting that Castile had been smoking marijuana but arguing that does not mean impairment. They say the squad car video shows Yanez asking for license and insurance, at which point Castile informs him he's carrying a firearm. The prosecution says Castile was simply pulling out his wallet as asked, when the officer began yelling "don't reach for it," with both Castile and his girlfriend insisting he wasn't "reaching for it."
At that juncture, prosecutors say Yanez shouted "Don't reach for it" one more time, then rapidly fired his gun seven times.
"The question is what would a reasonable officer do?... and that is for a jury to decide," asserted Assistant Ramsey County Prosecutor Jeff Paulsen.
KARE 11's Lou Raguse was in court for the hearing, and says what unfolded is likely an accurate preview of the arguments both sides will use should the case go to trial.