ST. PAUL, Minn. (CN) – A Minnesota prosecutor said Wednesday that the police officer who fatally shot Philando Castile in July has been charged with manslaughter and dangerous discharge of a firearm.
Ramsey County Attorney John Choi charged St. Anthony police officer Jeronimo Yanez in the killing of Castile during a traffic stop on July 6.
Yanez is charged with second-degree manslaughter and two felony counts for dangerous discharge of a firearm.
“I know my decision will be difficult for some in our community to accept, but in order to achieve justice we must be willing to do the right thing no matter how hard it may seem,” Choi said in a statement.
Under Minnesota law, deadly force by a police officer is justified only when it’s needed to protect the officer or others from great bodily harm or death, according to Choi.
“Based upon our thorough and exhaustive review of the facts of the case it is my conclusion that the use of deadly force…was not justified,” he said.
Castile told the officer he was legally carrying a gun and paramedics found a loaded pistol in his shorts, but “the mere presence of a firearm alone cannot justify use of deadly force,” Choi said.
The immediate aftermath of the shooting was live-streamed by Diamond Reynolds, a passenger in the car, along with her 4-year-old daughter in the backseat.
Judge Glenda Hatchett, who represents the Castile family, held a brief press conference at the office of Gaskins, Bennett, Birrell, Schupp LLP in Minneapolis.
“We see this as a historic decision, a historic time. Not only for Minnesota, but because as far as what we’ve researched, and no officials have told us differently, this is the first time that a police officer has been charged with a fatal shooting of a citizen,” Hatchett stated.
Hatchett added, “We see this as historic for the benefit of the community and as an important signal to this nation because of the series of shootings we’ve seen across this nation. We are certainly encouraged by the rare, collaborative relationship with local authorities, John Choi and his staff, and the federal government, U.S. Department of Justice, through the direction of U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger, and the FBI.”
Castile’s mother, Valerie Castile, said, “We are here in solidarity my family and I to support this decision.”
“We have gotten to this point and it is necessary for everyone to understand that we want peace. We don’t want any protests to get outrageous. I support protests. But it’s a matter to have things done,” she said. “I’m just glad that we have come to this chapter and it’s the beginning of a different chapter. And we hope and pray the right things are done in this issue.”
Valerie Castile was accompanied by her daughter, Allysza Castile; two brothers, Tracy and Clarence Castile; sister, Beverly Castile; and Beverly Castile’s 4-year-old grandson.
Hatchett reiterated to reporters that neither she nor the Castile family will answer any inquiries related to case.
“We will not answer any questions until a decision has been made in the case of officer Yanez because we don’t want to do anything that will distract from the important work of the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office, FBI and others involved in this matter,” Hatchett said.
At the time of his death, Castile was 32 years and was a cafeteria worker at the JJ Hill Montessori Magnet School.
St. Paul Public Schools said in a statement after his death that Castile was described by colleagues as “a team player who maintained great relationships with staff and students alike.”