A bit of local and national news to start off this blog: St. Anthony Police Officer Jeronimo Yanez, who killed Philando Castile during a traffic stop on July 9th, has been charged with second-degree manslaughter and two felonies for dangerous discharge of a firearm.
Second-degree manslaughter seems appropriate – the applicable qualification is manslaughter due to “culpable negligence whereby the person creates an unreasonable risk,” which perfectly fits Officer Yanez’ known actions. Pulling over the car in the first place was clearly inappropriate, as shown by the dispatch tapes. The firearms charge appears to apply to endangering the two passengers in Castile’s car.
Of all the killings publicized by the Black Lives Matter movement, Castile’s seems the most clear-cut example of police misconduct. (Though perhaps this is local bias on my part.) Castile was racially profiled and pulled over without probable cause, and then this owner of a legal firearm permit, a veteran of many minor encounters with the police, was shot seven times within three minutes of the beginning of the stop, in front of his girlfriend and her young child.
Dashcam footage of the incident was released along with the charges, and amazingly under the stressful circumstances, entirely matched Diamond Reynolds’ description in her livestream immediately following the shooting. Reynolds’ already impressive witnessing becomes even more so with confirmation. Castile identified to the officer that he was carrying a firearm, as provided in Minnesota’s concealed-carry permit law, and Officer Yanez reacted by shooting him.
I had certainly hoped to see charges in the case, and these seem like the right ones to me. This is so clear-cut it seems unlikely it will see a jury.
It’s worth noting that Minnesota’s hate crimes statute exists only to escalate crimes otherwise classified as misdemeanors to become felonies. It is not applicable to serious felony charges as in this case.