Protests erupt after Minnesota police officer is acquitted in shooting death of Philando Castile

A jury on Friday found 29-year-old Minnesota police Officer Jeronimo Yanez not guilty in the fatal shooting of black motorist Philando Castile during a traffic stop near St. Paul, an incident partially broadcast on Facebook Live.

Yanez was charged with second-degree manslaughter and faced up to 10 years in prison. The jury also found him not guilty of two counts of reckless discharge of a firearm.

Castile’s death triggered protests throughout the Twin Cities area, and Friday evening protesters once more took to the streets. In St. Paul, hundreds of demonstrators gathered at the state Capitol and then began to march carrying photographs of Castile and signs reading “Black lives matter,” “Police brutality” and “Shame.”

A line of police confronted hundreds of protesters who initially marched onto Interstate 94 late Friday night, the Associated Press reported. After a peaceful standoff of more than 90 minutes, the crowd dwindled and officers appeared to succeed in forcing the remaining demonstrators off without incident.

Hours earlier, the city of St. Anthony, where Yanez was employed, announced he would not return to active duty and would be offered a separation package to leave the force.

Castile’s mother, Valerie Castile, expressed anger and bewilderment during a televised news conference after the verdict.

“My son loved this state,” she said. “He had one tattoo on his body, and it was of the Twin Cities — the state of Minnesota with ‘TC’ on it. My son loved this city, and this city killed my son, and a murderer gets away.”

People have died to advance civil rights, she continued, but civilization was now devolving, not evolving. “We’re going back to 1969. Damn!” she said.

Castile’s death last July garnered national attention when Castile’s girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, began broadcasting on Facebook Live shortly after he was shot. The video quickly went viral and prompted days-long demonstrations in Minnesota.

His death was one in a series of fatal police shootings that spurred nationwide conversations on the culture of policing.

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton included his voice in that conversation shortly after the incident and suggested that had Castile been white, he wouldn’t have been shot.

”Would this have happened if those passengers, the driver were white? I don’t think it would have,” the Democratic governor told reporters. “So I’m forced to confront, and I think all of us in Minnesota are forced to confront, that this kind of racism exists.”

The video shows that, in the moments before Castile died, a calm Reynolds told him, “Stay with me,” and then explained they had been stopped due to a broken taillight.

When Yanez pulled over the 32-year-old school cafeteria manager, who was in the car with Reynolds and her 4-year-old daughter, Castile told Yanez that he had a gun with him and was licensed to carry it, according to prosecutors. Yanez, who said he feared for his life, shot Castile moments later.

During the trial, Yanez testified that he saw Castile’s gun and that Castile had ignored his orders not to pull it out. But prosecutors argued that that was impossible and that Yanez had racially profiled Castile and pulled him over because he looked like a suspect in a robbery that had occurred earlier in the day.

A 10-page criminal complaint filed in Ramsey County District Court, based on interviews and dialogue captured on the video, described what happened. Yanez told Castile to leave his weapon alone. “Don’t pull it out,” Yanez said.

“I’m not pulling it out,” Castile responded. “He’s not pulling it out,” his girlfriend added.

Moments later Yanez fired seven shots, five of which hit Castile.

“You just killed my boyfriend!” Reynolds yelled.

“I wasn’t reaching for it,” Castile murmured. He died shortly after.

Castile was shot in Falcon Heights, a suburb of St. Paul. Law enforcement had reportedly pulled Castile over 52 times before the stop that resulted in his death.

“We need to stand in solidarity to let them know that we are ... a community and let people know we are here,” Valerie Castile said in a video posted on Facebook a few days ago. “My son shouldn’t have died in the manner that he had died.”

The verdict in Yanez’s trial comes amid a series of recent acquittals in officer-related shootings. In May, the Justice Department announced that it would not indict Baton Rouge, La., officers in the shooting death of Alton Sterling, who was African American. Later that month, a jury acquitted a white Oklahoma police officer, Betty Shelby, in the shooting death of an unarmed black man named Terence Crutcher.

melissa.etehad@latimes.com

Follow me on Twitter @melissaetehad

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UPDATES:

10:25 p.m.: Updated with police confronting the protesters and the crowd dwindling.

8:20 p.m.: This story was updated to report protests denouncing the not-guilty verdict.

3:10 p.m.: This story was updated with comments from Valerie Castile.

2:35 p.m.: This story was updated to report that Jeronimo Yanez will no longer serve on the St. Anthony police force.

This story was originally published at 1:20 p.m.

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