ST. ANTHONY, Minn. (KMSP) - For months, St. Anthony Villagers for Community Action protested the post of Officer Jeronimo Yanez.
“I think it’s way past time for police officers to have consequences when they participate in these unjust killings,” SAVCA member Sandi Sherman said.
Sherman believes Ramsey County Attorney John Choi’s decision is one step closer to peace and redemption for Philando Castile’s family.
“We did not expect this. Honestly? Most of us thought we would not see justice this way,” she said.
Sherman has protested Yanez’s position with the St. Anthony Police Department since July, when Yanez pulled 32-year-old Philando Castile over and shot Castile seven times only 62 seconds later.
Yanez claims he believed Castile was reaching for his weapon, which he was licensed to carry, despite Castile and his girlfriend Diamond Reynolds reassuring the officer a number of times Castile was not reaching for his gun.
“Philando Castile moaned and uttered his final words, ‘I wasn’t reaching for it,’” announced Choi at a press conference he held Wednesday morning.
“[The fact] that the last words out of Philando’s mouth were ‘I wasn’t reaching for my gun’ […] I felt heartsick for his family to have to hear that and to have to go through that,” Sherman said, shaking her head.
What the Castile family may have more of now, however, is hope.
“We’re not done, we’re going to keep the pressure on,” Sherman said. “Justice would be [to have] a conviction and for [Yanez to serve] a prison sentence.”
SAVCA officials released the following statement:
“Mr. Castile’s [death] is not just the grave mistake of one individual, but likely a climate of institutionalized bias and inequity not only within the St. Anthony Police Department, but throughout our nation. We will not prevent unjustified officer-involved deaths going forward until we focus on what is broken in policing practices.”
“As a community, we have yet to truthfully and meaningfully articulate why this unjust shooting happened and how this tragedy came to be. We must still address the institutional concerns, and not merely the trail of Officer Yanez. The real work of change begins with answering the hard questions of the ‘how’ and ‘why’ this death occurred."