The lawyer representing the St. Anthony police officer who shot and killed a black motorist in Minnesota on July 6 said Saturday that the officer was not reacting to race, but “the actions of the driver.”
Police Officer Jeronimo Yanez shot Philando Castile, 32, in the driver’s seat of a car on Wednesday night in the Falcon Heights neighborhood, just outside the state capitol. Castile died at the hospital.
The Minnesota State Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is investigating — the standard when an officer is involved in a shooting.
Thomas Kelly, who represents Yanez through the police union, told the NewsHour in a phone interview that such investigations can take as long as 18 months, but said “I’m not concerned about criminal proceedings here and I don’t think he is either.”
Much of what the public knows about the shooting came from Castile’s girlfriend, who live streamed the immediate aftermath on Facebook.
Diamond Reynolds, while in the passenger seat and her young daughter in the backseat, said in the video that Castile, “let the officer know that he had a firearm and he was reaching for his wallet and the officer just shot him in his arm.”
In the emotional video, Castile is bloodied, moaning and struggling to stay alive while Reynolds says, “stay with me.”
The next morning, Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton said he was “deeply, deeply offended” by Castile’s death, adding that race played a role in the incident – a public address that was little consolation for the rattled community.
But Kelly disputed both Reynolds’ account and the mayor’s assessment that race played a role in the shooting.
“I can tell you that the driver disregarded the clear commands of Officer Yanez,” Kelly said.
Kelly said Yanez was, “Reacting to the actions of the driver of the vehicle and included in those actions were the presence and production of a weapon.” While saying he could not provide more detail, he said “I can tell you that race had nothing to do with the shooting.”
Reynolds had said on Facebook that the officer had pulled them over because of a busted tail light, but Kelly said there that was not the only reason.
“There was more than just the equipment violation,” he said, while declining to elaborate.
Castile’s case happened right after another black man was shot and killed by a police officer in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Then on Thursday night, a sniper attack at a protest about the shootings killed five police officers.
For third time in as many days President Barack Obama spoke about persisting racial tension on Saturday — but rejected the idea that this week’s violence implied a return to the country’s dark past.
“Americans of all races and all backgrounds are rightly outraged by the inexcusable attacks on police, whether it’s in Dallas or anyplace else,” Obama said. “This has been a tough week.”