ST. PAUL, Minn. (CN) – A Minnesota judge ruled Wednesday afternoon that the police officer charged in last summer’s fatal shooting of Philando Castile will face trial on a manslaughter charge.
Ramsey County District Court Judge William Leary III denied Jeronimo Yanez’s motion to dismiss the second-degree manslaughter charge for the killing of Castile during a July 2016 traffic stops, hours after a hearing on the motion.
Judge Leary set a pretrial hearing for Feb. 27 at 9 a.m.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Paulsen, representing the state of Minnesota, said in a statement, “We look forward to proving our case to the jury.”
On Wednesday morning, the Leary heard Yanez’s defense attorney, Paul Engh, argue for dismissal of the charge while Paulsen said the case should continue to trial.
Yanez, 28, entered the courtroom in a beige suit with a black tie, appearing to have a somber expression on his face.
Engh argued that the case lacks probable cause and that Yanez acted within his rights as a police officer during the stop.
Yanez suspected Castile of being involved in a robbery that occurred four days before the shooting. The officer said he had reason to stop Castile because his vehicle had a broken taillight.
“Yanez had the right to investigate, to have a gun, to have [Castile] obey his commands, to reach into [the car] and prevent Castile from getting the gun and to shoot,” Engh states.
“A trial for the innocent is not appropriate,” he added.
In a reply brief filed last Tuesday, Yanez said his use of deadly force was prompted by seeing Castile’s gun. In his previous reports, Yanez has stated that the “presence” of Castile’s gun drove him to use deadly force. Castle had told the officer he had a firearm just prior to the shooting.
But Paulsen argued that Yanez’s commands required Castile to simultaneously keep his hands out of reach and also retrieve his wallet. According to Paulsen, both Diamond Reynolds, who was also in the car, and Castile said he was not reaching for his gun.
“The question is not whether Philando had a right to carry a gun, it is whether Philando had a reason to be killed for no good reason,” Paulsen said.
Outside of the courtroom Wednesday morning, Valerie Castile, Philando’s mother, said her son “was an amazing human being.”
“It’s in God’s hands. It’s nothing I can say, or any of my people can say or anything we can do. God has his hands all over this one,” she said.