Protests as US cop is acquitted of killing black motorist

ST PAUL (Minnesota) • A police officer in Minnesota, United States, has been acquitted of the killing of a black motorist he shot five times during a traffic stop last July, in an incident that drew national attention after the victim's girlfriend live-streamed the bloody aftermath on social media.

St Anthony Police Department officer Jeronimo Yanez, who testified that he feared for his life when he fatally shot Mr Philando Castile, was found not guilty of second-degree manslaughter on Friday.

The jury of seven men and five women, 10 of whom were white and two of whom were black, sided with the officer after deliberating for more than 25 hours over five days, acquitting Mr Yanez of all charges.

The shooting death of Mr Castile, 32, in the St Paul suburb of Falcon Heights triggered local protests and fuelled debate across the country over the appropriate use of force by law enforcement against minorities.

The verdict drew an angry reaction from Mr Castile's mother.

"I'm mad as hell right now," Mrs Valerie Castile told reporters after the verdict. "My first-born son died... Just because he was a police officer, that makes it OK."

She said the verdict shows "the system continues to fail black people".

Mr Yanez, the son of a Mexican immigrant, testified during the trial in Ramsey County District Court that he feared for his life after Mr Castile began reaching for a firearm that the latter had disclosed he had in his possession.

An attorney for Mr Yanez, Mr Earl Gray, praised the verdict.

"Justice was done," he said.

Hundreds of demonstrators gathered outside the state capitol in St Paul on Friday evening, and a series of speakers demanded justice for minorities in the American judicial system and stronger accountability measures for police.

Many people chanted in unison "stand up, fight back" and "if we don't get no justice, they don't get no peace". After the rally, police said roughly 2,000 people marched down streets in St Paul, at times blocking traffic at intersections.

Protesters also blocked trains at one point and chanted "Yanez guilty". The authorities made 18 arrests shortly after midnight on Friday after the protesters refused to disperse. The City of St Anthony said Mr Yanez would not return to active duty and that it was negotiating a "voluntary separation agreement" with him.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 18, 2017, with the headline 'Protests as US cop is acquitted of killing black motorist'. Print Edition | Subscribe