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Minnesota officer charged with manslaughter over Castile death

Published 16/11/2016

A Minnesota police officer has been charged with second-degree manslaughter in the killing of a black man
A Minnesota police officer has been charged with second-degree manslaughter in the killing of a black man

A Minnesota police officer has been charged with second-degree manslaughter over the killing of a black man in a St Paul suburb, prosecutors have announced.

St Anthony police officer Jeronimo Yanez fatally shot Philando Castile, 32, during a traffic stop in Falcon Heights on July 6.

The shooting's gruesome aftermath was streamed live on Facebook by Mr Castile's girlfriend, who was with him in the car along with her young daughter.

The woman said Mr Castile was shot several times while reaching for his ID after telling Mr Yanez he had a gun permit and was armed.

Mr Yanez's attorney, Tom Kelly, has said the officer - who is Latino, was reacting to the presence of a gun, and that one reason Mr Yanez pulled Mr Castile over was because he thought he looked like a possible match for an armed robbery suspect.

But family members claimed Mr Castile, an elementary school cafeteria worker, was racially profiled.

Ramsey County Attorney John Choi got the case from investigators in late September and began reviewing the evidence for possible charges.

Mr Choi resisted pressure immediately after the shooting to turn the case over to a special prosecutor, but added one to his team to get an outside perspective. He also enlisted the help of national use-of-force consultants.

Mr Choi's office has said a key question in his review was determining whether Mr Yanez was justified in believing deadly force was necessary.

In Minnesota, second-degree manslaughter, or involuntary manslaughter, carries a maximum prison sentence of 10 years.

The shooting prompted numerous protests, including a weeks-long demonstration outside the governor's mansion and one protest that shut down Interstate 94 in St Paul for hours.

The interstate protest resulted in about 50 arrests and injuries to more than 20 officers, after police said they were hit with cement chunks, bottles, rocks and other objects.

The shooting also exposed a disproportionate number of arrests of African-Americans in St Anthony, Lauderdale and Falcon Heights, which are all patrolled by the St Anthony Police Department.

An analysis of police data showed black people made up nearly half of all arrests made by St Anthony officers in 2016. Census data shows that just 7% of residents in the three cities are black.

The fatal shootings of black men and boys by police officers have come under heightened scrutiny since the 2014 death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and led to calls nationwide for officers to be held criminally responsible.

AP

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