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On Friday — June 16th — a jury acquitted Minnesota police officer, Jeronimo Yanez, of all charges in the killing of Philando Castile. Emotions flared nationwide after the verdict was announced, as many felt the decision was unjust and perpetuated an extrajudicial system set up against people of color.
The fatal incident was yet another in a long string of high-profile cases spanning four years, starting with the death of Trayvon Martin at the hands of George Zimmerman in 2013 and followed by the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner in 2014. These cases, as well as many others after them, are what sparked the social justice movement known as #BlackLivesMatter.
History of the case
On July 6, 2016, Saint Paul Public School District employee Philando Castile was fatally shot by Jeronimo Yanez after being pulled over in Falcon Heights, Minnesota. Castile was in the car with his girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, and her four-year-old daughter when Yanez and another officer pulled them over as part of a traffic stop.
During the stop, Castile was asked for his license and registration; and, according to Reynolds, who live-streamed the aftermath of the incident on Facebook Live, he informed the officer that he was licensed to carry a weapon and that he was, indeed, carrying a registered gun in his pocket. In the video, Reynolds claims that the compliant Castile was shot seven times while reaching for his ID.
Watch the full video below. WARNING, GRAPHIC CONTENT!
Later on that year, it was announced that Yanez was being charged with three felonies — one count of second-degree manslaughter and two counts of dangerous discharge of a firearm. The trial began on May 30, 2017 and the jury presiding over the case consisted of seven men and five women, only two of which were Black.
The acquittal and the fallout
After five days of tense deliberation, the verdict was announced and Yanez, alongside the 12 jurors, were escorted out of the courtroom. Philando Castile’s family also left the courtroom in tears.
As with the aforesaid cases of brutality against the initial incident, as well as the outcome, sparked nationwide protests and debates surrounding the treatment of minorities by law enforcement. There are, of course, individuals and groups representing both sides of the argument; some stating that the treatment of minorities by law enforcement is unjust and racist, while others assert that many of the cases used to prove the argument in question are distorted in order to push a certain narrative.