Family and friends of Philando Castile expressed relief that the Minnesota police officer who fired fatal shots at him during a July traffic stop in a Minneapolis suburb has been charged in his killing.
“It’s the beginning to a different chapter,” said Castile’s mother, Valerie, during a press conference at her attorney’s office. “We hope that the right thing is done in this chapter.”
Ramsey County, Minnesota prosecutor John Choi announced Wednesday that St. Anthony police officer Jeronimo Yanez was charged with second degree manslaughter and two felony counts of dangerous discharge of a firearm. He said that after an extensive investigation, he had determined that Yanez did not have reasonable cause to open fire on Castile during the July 6, incident in suburban Falcon Heights, Minnesota.
“To justify the use of deadly force, it is not enough…for the police officer to merely express a subjective fear of death or great bodily harm,” said Choi at a Wednesday press conference announcing second degree manslaughter charges against Yanez. “Unreasonable fear cannot justify the use of deadly force.”
Glenda Hatchett, the Castile family attorney, called the decision to prosecute “historic” noting that it sends an “important signal” to the country. She also said the family is prepared for the legal process to be lengthy. “We prefer for it to be thorough than to be fast,” she said. “We want justice to be done,” according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.
Castile’s girlfriend Diamond Reynolds, who streamed his death on Facebook Live as it happened, in a gruesome video that went viral remarked that the charges are “only the first step. We are looking for a conviction.
“I was worried that charges were not going to be brought against him just because of the simple fact that he is a police officer,” she said. “I’m trying to stay as strong as possible. I just want the community and everyone behind us to stay strong and stay together. Because we’re going to get our justice.
About 100 protesters gathered early Wednesday evening outside the JJ Hill Montessori School in St. Paul where Castile was a longtime cafeteria worker. Some carried signs that read “No Justice, No Peace” and “Black Lives Matter.” The group said they would continue to advocate for justice until the case is resolved.
“We haven’t won the war, but we won a battle,” activist Loretta VanPelt told the crowd.
— With reporting by Associated Press.