‘What does justice require’ in Philando Castile case?

That decision now in the hands of Ramsey County Attorney John Choi

The Ramsey County Attorney Office announced Wednesday, Sept. 27 that the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) completed its investigation into the police shooting death of the Philando Castile. Ramsey County Attorney John Choi will now decide whether to prosecute St. Anthony police officer Jeronimo Yanez in Castile’s death or hand the case over to a grand jury to determine if charges should be filed.

Castile was shot by Yanez during a traffic stop July 6. The moments after he was shot were streamed live on Facebook by his girlfriend Diamond Reynolds and shared on social media, setting off protests and unrest locally and across the nation.

In a released statement, the county attorney’s office pledged to do a thorough review of the BCA’s findings to determine “what justice requires in this case.” No set timetable was given, but the statement referred to last year’s Jamar Clark case in Hennepin County that took a total of seven weeks to complete.

At question is whether the officer’s subjective belief that deadly force was necessary, was objectively reasonable and justified. Per the statement, the county attorney office will seek a “use-of-force expert” to “help identify further areas of investigation and answer prosecutors’ questions around the reasonableness of the officer’s actions from an objective standpoint.”

John Choi

Also according to the county attorney’s statement, video of the shooting may be released: “We will release the video and associated audio to the public once we are confident that the decision to do so won’t adversely affect the ongoing investigation or possible prosecution,” the statement read.

St. Paul NAACP 1st Vice President Yusef Mgeni struck a reserved but hopeful tone about the case when he spoke to the MSR by phone on Thursday, Sept. 29. “We, like the rest of the community, are waiting for the review,” he said. He noted that police procedure was not adhered to in this case. “It was totally inappropriate to pull him [Castile] and his girlfriend for a felony stop,” stated Mgeni. “Proper police procedure was not followed.”

Special prosecutor, Don Lewis, will be called upon to “bring independent perspective” to the prosecution team, according the county attorney statement. To that point, Mgeni said, “[Hennepin County Attorney] Mike Freeman did the investigation within his office [in the Jamar Clark case]. John Choi essentially is doing the same thing except that he has retained the services of Don Lewis to help analyze the BCA report,” noted Mgeni.

“But Mr. Lewis does not have the ultimate say,” continued Mgeni. “John Choi has retained that privilege for himself so that the decision to or not to charge the officer [Yanez] or bring him before a grand jury will be up to the Ramsey County attorney.

“All of the facts have not been shared with the public yet. We are waiting to see those facts and see what course the Ramsey County attorney will take,” said Mgeni.

Judge Hatchett
Judge Hatchett (Paige Elliott/MSR News)

Mgeni also noted that Castile was “a young man fully employed and respected by his principal and co-workers” as a St. Paul Public Schools food service worker. “We are hopeful we will get to the bottom of it and that the investigation will be transparent,” he said.

Judge Glenda Hatchett, whose law firm is representing the Castile family on all civil matters, expressed a similar sentiment when she spoke to the MSR by phone Thursday. She said her firm and the Castile family “want justice served and we trust that [St. Anthony police officer] Jeronimo Yanez will be charged with murder.

“We are determined to use this case as a reality of systematic profiling, and obtain justice for Castile and other Black men across the country,” pledged Hatchett, who also lauded the strength and encourage of Philando’s mother, Valerie Castile, in the midst of her family’s loss.


Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to challman@spokesman-recorder.com.

Reporter Ivan Phifer contributed to this report.

Updated 10/7/2017