Evidence released from trial, investigation of Officer Jeronimo Yanez

- A year of protests, highway closures, dozens of arrests, countless community meetings and arguments and thinkpieces all boil down to 38 seconds on a warm July evening in Falcon Heights, Minn. 

On Friday, Officer Jeronimo Yanez was declared not guilty of manslaughter for the shooting which claimed the life of Philando Castile and made both men household names across the country.

Tuesday, the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension released its files on the officer-involved shooting, including Yanez' dashcam video, dispatch audio of Yanez before pulling Castile over, photographs used as evidence in the trial and documents pertaining to the incident. 

Ultimately, how the jurors processed this information determined Yanez' fate. 

DASHCAM VIDEO

The facts unfold with agonizing speed on dashcam video from St. Anthony Squad No. 704, a normal traffic stop hinging on just 13 words.

Sir, I have to tell you I do have a firearm on me.

The next five chaotic seconds plunged the Twin Cities into a decade-defining, occasionally violent national conversation over police brutality and institutional racism.

It's unclear to everyone except Jeronimo Yanez exactly what happened in those few moments, our only insight being jumbled words caught on low-quality audio. The transcript, denied to the jury during deliberation, reads as follows:

Yanez: Don't reach for it then.

Castile: I'm, I, I was reaching for...

Yanez: Don't pull it out.

Castile: I'm not pulling it out.

Diamond Reynolds: He's not...

Seven shots follow.

The statute governing a police officer's use of deadly force, a few paragraphs in all, gives insight into how the jury must have structured their conversation.

Deadly force by a police officer in the line of duty … when necessary to protect the peace officer or another from apparent death.

...use of force must be judged from the perspective of an officer acting reasonably at the moment he is on the scene, rather than with the 20/20 vision of hindsight. The reasonableness inquiry extends only to those facts known to the officer at the precise moment the officer acted with force.

Yanez knew Castile had a gun, but did not know its location. Beyond that, it was up to the jury to determine what happened in those precious few seconds, whether Castile was reaching for his gun, his wallet--or maybe nothing at all.

Was it enough in that moment to make Yanez fear for his life?

12 Minnesotans said it was.

EVIDENCE PHOTOGRAPHS

Police spent countless hours documenting every angle of the scene, every piece of evidence that might someday show some sort of significance, a standard procedure rarely shared with the public at large.

More than 100 pictures make up the evidence file from Minnesota vs Officer Jeronimo Yanez. The obvious inclusions are all present, of course: Bullet trajectories. Shell casings. Transcripts. Diagrams. X-rays. Incident reports.

Some of the images, however, convey the inherent humanity of an undeniably tragic situation--items strewn in about in a police evidence lab, all at one point pieces of a human life, now gone. 

Groceries, now spoiled. A new pair of shoes, never to be worn. South Dakota travel packets outlining a trip never taken. Invitations to a preschool graduation, a seat gone vacant.

A bag of marijuana--about the size of an iPhone sitting next to it--took on an outsize role in the trial after Reynolds testified she and Castile had purchased the drugs earlier in the day. Despite postmortem toxicology tests being unreliable, the defense's toxicologist testified that Castile had smoked within two hours of being pulled over.

Autopsy pictures show graphic entry and exit wounds on Castile's lifeless body, along with diagrams and x-rays showing their exact points and the repercussions of being struck there. 

A portrait of Yanez' face shows the weight of such a colossal moment setting in, the process of capturing his image back at the station surely feeling like much longer than the few minutes it might have taken. 

"HE LET OFF MORE ROUNDS THAN HE DID WORDS"

Reynolds' wide-ranging interview with a BCA agent starts with her arrival at the Roseville Police Station, ends with her telling the officer she live-streamed a video on Facebook and includes the moment Reynolds finds out her boyfriend has died. 

Officer: Okay. So.

DR: What're they saying? I know you just got the text.

CO: Yeah I think I got, I don't think--Phil has died. I got some bad news and I'm sorry it happened.

DR: (crying)

Officer: Did he say anything after he was shot? (inaudible)

DR: He didn't say anything. His eyes rolled in the back of his head and he just looked at me.

Officer: Okay.

DR: (crying) Anything. There was nothing to say.

Officer: I'm sorry. It's terrible.

DR: This officer (inaudible, crying). He took him away from us (crying). It's not fair. It's not fair. Please get me out of here.

During the interview she says Yanez "let off more rounds than words" and agrees to allow police to interview her daughter, ultimately giving her version of events to the officers.

As he's going to reach for his license and registrations, he's havin' some difficulty. He lets the officer know he he has a firearm on him as he's havin' the difficulty. He's tryin' to get his hands back in the air. The officer states, "Stop moving! Stop Moving!" as he's trying to get back comfortable and he lets off shots.

Yanez testified during the trial that he definitively saw Castile’s gun, but in a newly released interview with the BCA on the day after the shooting, which prosecutors read excerpts of in court, he is much less specific, saying he "thought" Castile was reaching for the gun. 

I know he had an object and it was dark, and he was pulling it out with his right hand. As he was pulling it out, a million things started going through my head and I thought I was going to die ...

I thought he had the gun in his hand, in his right hand. I thought he had it enough to where all he had to do is just pull it out, point it at me, move his trigger finger down on the trigger and let off rounds. And I had no other option than, to take out my firearm and, and I shot.

TRIAL RECAP

DAY 1: Squad video played, opening statements

DAY 2: Diamond Reynolds and Yanez's partner testify

DAY 3: Use of force experts testify

DAY 4: Prosecution rests, police chief takes the stand

DAY 5: Officer Yanez takes stand, defense rests

DAY 6: Closing arguments, jury begins deliberations

DAY 7: Jury re-watches 2 key videos, no verdict reached

DAY 8: Jury deadlocked, judge asks them to continue

DAY 9: Yanez jury enters 4th day of deliberations

VERDICT: Officer Yanez declared not guilty

 

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