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Officer Charged in Shooting Death of Philando Castile

Philando Castile Photo courtesy of Facebook

A Minnesota police officer is facing criminal charges in the July 6 shooting death of an African-American motorist, whose death was streamed on social media.

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.

Castile, 32, was riding with his girlfriend, and her child who was strapped in the back seat when they were pulled over in the Minneapolis suburb of Falcon Heights. Castile reportedly told the officer that he had a firearm on him and that he was licensed to carry it, but gunfire rang out, fatally wounding him while he reached for his identification.

His girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, used her cellphone to webcast the incident on Facebook Live, and Yanez can be heard screaming that he told Castile not to reach for the ID. Castile’s final words were “I wasn’t reaching for it,” according to Choi.

In the video, Castile can be seen slumped over next to her in the driver’s seat, his shirt soaked with blood. An attorney representing Yanez said he was reacting to the presence of a gun, and that he thought Castile looked like “a possible match” for a suspect in a recent armed robbery nearby.

The video went viral, spurring waves of protests over this shooting and that of Alton Sterling, a Baton Rouge, Louisiana man who was killed by police that same week.

The video has since been viewed millions of times and has underscored several incidents throughout 2016 in which African-Americans were killed at the hands of police officers in various cities.

“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. “Unreasonable fear cannot justify the use of deadly force.”

Choi said that he decided against using a grand jury in the case, feeling that it was best for his office to investigate the killing in the interest of public transparency. “My conscience says it would be wrong to ask a grand jury to make this decision,” Choi said.

If convicted, Yanez faces a maximum prison sentence of 10 years, according to Minnesota law.

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