On July 6, 2016, 32-year-old Philando Castile was shot and killed by Jeronimo Yanez, a St. Anthony police officer, during a traffic stop for a broken taillight in St. Paul, Minnesota. Mr. Castile was shot multiple times from close range. His fiancee and her four-year-old daughter bore witness to his murder, and his fiancee used her cell phone to broadcast a livestream of the aftermath on social media. The tragic footage of Mr. Castile’s wounded and dying body as the officer shouts orders and the little girl tries to console her mother from the back seat sparked international outrage and protests about police brutality against black communities.
Officer Yanez pulled over Mr. Castile and his fiancee to check their identifications, using a traffic stop as pretext. Police dispatch audio reveals the officer saying, “The two occupants just look like people that were involved in a robbery. The driver looks more like one of our suspects, just because of the wide-set nose. I couldn’t get a good look at the passenger.”
At the start of the stop, Officer Yanes asked Mr. Castile if he had a weapon. Mr. Castile responded that he did have a gun, as well as a valid permit, and explained that his identification and permit were in his wallet. Mr. Castile moved to retrieve the items but Officer Yanez ordered him to keep his hands on the wheel. As Mr. Castile complied, and moved his hands back up to place them on the steering wheel, Officer Yanez fired at least four shots into Mr. Castile’s chest through the open car window, at very close range and close proximity to Mr. Castile’s fiancee and her daughter.
Police who arrived at the scene following the shooting rendered no medical aid to Mr. Castile as he bled out, instead comforting the crying officer who had killed him. Mr. Castile died at the hospital twenty minutes after the shooting and Officer Yanez was placed on medical leave pending investigation. Taking place less than 24 hours after the videotaped fatal police shooting of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Mr. Castile’s death led to protest marches and outrage throughout the country. Community members soon came forward to laud him as an inspirational employee at a local elementary school, and publicly mourn his death.
Prior to the fatal shooting, Mr. Castile had been stopped by police for minor traffic violations at least 52 times in recent years, once approximately every four months. These stops resulted in 86 issued violations, most of which were dismissed. The extreme rate of traffic stops cost Mr. Castile over $6,500 in fees and fines.
On August 17, 2016, Officer Yanez was allowed to return to duty in a desk position, though the investigation into the shooting was still ongoing. Within days, community protest led police department officials to return him to administrative leave. On September 6, 2016, local protesters gathered at St. Paul City Hall to mark the shooting’s two-month anniversary and reiterate their calls for a fair investigation and justice.