US officer acquitted over shooting of black motorist

A Minnesota police officer was acquitted Friday in the shooting of a black motorist whose dying moments were captured on Facebook video in a case that shocked the nation.

AFP| Last Updated: Jun 17, 2017, 18:17 PM IST

Illinois: A Minnesota police officer was acquitted Friday in the shooting of a black motorist whose dying moments were captured on Facebook video in a case that shocked the nation.

Jeronimo Yanez, 29, was found not guilty of all three charges he faced in the death of 32-year-old Philando Castile: second-degree manslaughter and two felony counts of intentional discharge of a dangerous weapon for endangering the safety of Castile`s girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, and her four-year-old daughter. 

Both were in the car when the officer shot Castile during a traffic stop on July 6 of last year. 

After the verdict, Castile`s family reacted with anger outside the courthouse in Saint Paul, Minnesota. An evening protest was planned at the state capitol. 

"I`m mad as hell right now. Yes, I am," Castile`s mother Valerie told a group of reporters. "The system continues to fail black people."

Glenda Hatchett, a lawyer who represented Valerie Castile, said her son had suffered a "tragic, tragic needless death."

"This time we had to get it right," she said.

"This time we had a young man who had no criminal record," she said. "This time there should have been, in our opinion, a very, very different outcome."

The immediate aftermath of Castile`s shooting was captured on video recorded by Reynolds and broadcast on Facebook Live. In it, Castile can be seen bleeding to death in the driver`s seat. 

The footage sparked protests across the United States and further exposed tensions between US police and African Americans.

Yanez had initially singled out Castile for a traffic stop because the officer thought he bared a resemblance to a robbery suspect. 

Castile volunteered that he was legally carrying a gun. He said, "Sir, I have to tell you that I do have a firearm on me."

The officer asked Castile not to pull out the handgun. But moments later Yanez fired seven shots while Castile was still buckled into his seat. Reynolds, the girlfriend, said Castile had been trying to pull out his wallet.

Yanez said he feared for his safety and thought Castile was reaching for the gun. 

But Ramsey County Attorney John Choi, who filed charges against the officer, declared such fear unreasonable.

"He made a horrible mistake," Choi said after the verdict, referring to the officer. 

"I know if he could, he would take back what he did," he said. 

Community activists expressed anger and disappointment, while officials appealed for calm. 

"It was a clear-cut case," Jaylani Hussein, chief of the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said on local TV station KSTP. 

"It sends a very harsh message that we still have major race issues in this country."The mayor of Saint Paul quickly announced a series of community meetings to discuss the verdict. 

"I urge each of us to move forward in a way that is peaceful and respectful of everyone -- residents, demonstrators and police officers alike," Mayor Christopher Coleman said in a statement.