The police officer charged in the shooting death of Philando Castile pleaded not guilty on Monday, in the latest turn to one of several stories from last year of Blacks being killed at the hands of law enforcement.
Jeronimo Yanez, 28, was charged with manslaughter in the July fatal wounding of Castile, 32, who was pulled over for a broken taillight in Falcon Heights, Minn., a suburb of Minneapolis.
Ramsey County Attorney John Choi said, “No reasonable officer knowing, seeing or hearing what officer Yanez did would have used deadly force,” when he filed the charge against Yanez in November.
Yanez’s defense attorneys have maintained that Castile reached for his gun during the stop, justifying the shooting, but prosecutors argued that Castile’s gun—which he had a license for—was properly concealed and that he never attempted to remove or draw it. The entire incident was webcast on Facebook live by Castile’s girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, who was in the vehicle with him at the time of the shooting.
The shooting ignited massive protests nationwide over police violence. The same week, another Black man, Alton Sterling was shot and killed by an officer in Baton Rouge, La. Tension from both incidents led to demonstrations in which police in Baton Rouge and Dallas were also killed by attackers.
Ramsey County District Judge William Leary had the option of deciding to drop the charges against Yanez, but he denied defense motions to dismiss the case. During Monday’s proceedings, Leary set another hearing date for April 3 and a tentative start date for a trial May 30.
If Yanez is convicted, he faces 10 years in prison.