Disturbing information surrounding the fatal shooting of Philando Castile last July has emerged this week after a jury found a Minnesota police officer not guilty of second-degree manslaughter.
On Tuesday, newly released dashcam video of the traffic stop by St. Anthony Police Officer Jeronimo Yanez showed a quickly escalating situation after Castile was pulled over in the St. Paul suburb for having a broken taillight. Castile, in the car with his girlfriend and her 4-year-old daughter, at first calmly informed the officer he had a firearm and is told by Yanez not to “pull it out.” He tells the officer he is not and is then shot several times. In audio from the footage, Castile can be heard saying “I wasn’t reaching” as the gunfire ends.
Throughout the trial, Yanez maintained that Castile was reaching for the weapon, but his girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, said he was reaching for his wallet. Reynolds’ live-streamed video following the shooting went viral and prompted massive protests in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area.
Now a transcript of an interview between investigators and Yanez reveals the officer’s shocking interaction with Castile, including the quick escalation. Five passages from the transcript are below, with emphasis added. The mistakes in the transcript are from the original.
1. Castile clearly stated he had a gun, and the situation escalated in a “split second.”
Investigator: “From the time he mentioned to you that he had a firearm, weapon, um, what was the timeline? Did he immediately announce that at start ...?”
Yanez: “I can’t remember if he immediate announced it but it caught my attention right away and it seemed like it was split-second from the time he told me to the time he was reaching down, to the time I gave him direction, to the time he had the his hand wrapped around it and then I gave him more direction and shots were fired.”
2. Castile made a “C-shape” with his hands, and it was dark inside the vehicle.
Yanez: “He dropped his hand down and, can’t remember what I was telling him but I was telling something as his hand went down I think. And, he put his hand around something. And his hand made like a C shape type, um, type shape and it appeared to me that he was wrapping something around his fingers and almost like if I were to put my uh hand around my gun like putting my hand up to the butt of the gun.
“And then I lost view of it. Cuz he kept canting his shoulder and then I believe told him again I can’t remember don’t do it. And then he still kept moving his hand and at this point I looked and saw something in his hand. It was dark inside the vehicle, I was trying to fumble my way through under stress to look and see what it was to make sure uh what I was seeing. But I wasn’t given enough time and like I said he had no regard for what I was saying. Didn’t follow my direction. And, uh he started reaching out and then pulling uh away from his uh his right thigh. I don’t know if it was in his pocket or in between the seats or the center console. But I, I know he had an object and it was dark. And he was pulling it out with his right hand. And as he was pulling it out, a million things started going through my head. And I thought I was gonna die.”
3. Yanez said the car smelled like “burnt marijuana,” and he wasn’t sure if Castile’s gun was for protection “from a drug dealer.”
Yanez: “As I get up to the car I’m hit with an odor of burning marijuana .... And I know it’s already been smoked and I’ve been around uh through my training I’ve been around burnt marijuana and uh as a police officer I’ve been around burnt marijuana and uh fresh marijuana. So I know the distinct smells between both.
“I can’t remember if I asked for his ID or not but, I know I asked for his ID or his driver’s license. And then he goes I have a gun. And as I’m telling him or as he’s telling me that he’s reaching down between his right leg, his right thigh area and the center console. And he’s reaching down and I believe I’m telling him something along the lines of don’t reach for it, don’t do it. Referring to the, uh the firearm. Yep. Because usually people that carry firearms carry ’em on their waistband. Um and or in between the seats and being that the vehicle smelled the inside of the vehicle smelled like marijuana um I didn’t know if he was keeping it on him for protection, for, from a, a drug dealer or anything like that or any other people trying to rip him. Rip him meaning steal from him.”
4. Yanez said Castile fit the description of a robbery suspect and had a similar “wide-set nose.”
Investigator: “Do you remember what you pulled ’em over for?”
Yanez: “I was keeping my eye on 2424 Larpenteur which is a convenience store on Larpenteur at the intersection of Larpenteur and Eustice. It’s on the southwest comer of the intersection. Um, I wanted to pay attention to that because we had a strong armed robbery last week uh which involved two African American males um, one having a firearm and pointing it at the clerk and then the other uh the victim to!d me that he also had a firearm but I wasn’t ab!e to see it when the video was reviewed. Um, so I was sitting at a intersection and I see a white vehicle. I can’t remember what kind of vehicle it was. Um but I see two occupants. What I believed was two occupants inside the car. And I couldn’t make out the passenger. But I knew the passenger had a hat on. And I couldn’t make out if it was a guy or girl I just knew that they were both African American and the driver uh appeared to me that he appeared to match the uh physical description of the one of our suspects from the strong arm robbery, gunpoint.”
Investigator: “What is that description?”
Yanez: “Um it was a (sigh) I can’t remember the height, weight but I remember that it was, the male had dreadlocks around shoulder length. Or longer hair around shoulder length. And, um it wasn’t specified if it was corn rows or dreadlocks or straight hair. Um and then just kind of distinct facial features with like, a kind of like a wide set nose and uh I saw that in the driver of the vehicle.”
5. A 4-year-old girl in the car, the daughter of Castile’s girlfriend, was in the line of fire.
Investigator: “Where is the little girl seated?”
Yanez: “She was seated behind, directly behind the front seat passenger. But diagonal, uh, from where I was standing. Um, so basically behind the driver. And then, so...”
Investigator: “Behind the driver or the passenger?”
Yanez: “So if I’m facing the driver she was, she was diagonal from him. Behind the backseat or front seat passenger. So she was in my line of fire. Um, but I made sure that I directed my firearm down and as best as I could and let off rounds and as the rounds were going off I thought he was still moving for his gun and (sigh) I it just seemed like he was pulling out the gun and the barrel just kept coming. It seemed like something was just coming out and I thought it was a gun ...
“I don’t remember how many rounds I let off. Um I remember seeing the last two rounds go off and I remember seeing one of those rounds hit him in the arm. Uh his glasses flew off. I’m not sure if it was from gunfire or from him uh whipping his head back or anything like that. Uh but uh as that was happening as he was pulling at, out his hand I thought, I was gonna die and i thought if he’s, if he has the, the guts and the audacity to smoke marijuana in front of the five year old girl and risk her lungs and risk her life by giving her secondhand smoke and the front seat passenger doing the same thing then what, what care does he give about me. And, I let off the rounds and then after the rounds were off, the little girls was screaming, I held the suspect at gunpoint. His arms came up into view. And they were up by his chest I can’t remember what I said. But I acknowledged this little girl first. Cuz i wanted her to be safe.”