Traffic stop turns deadly in 40 seconds, according police dashcam video
Video released after being shown at ex-officer's trial in Philando Castile shooting
What’s most shocking is how fast it happened.
It took just 40 seconds for an ordinary traffic stop to turn deadly – from a police officer saying, “Hello, sir,” to him firing seven shots at a seated motorist.
But the police dashboard camera video released Tuesday adds a visceral element to what police witnesses had described – unnerving even in the context of other police shootings and after a video taken by Philando Castile’s passenger went viral.
Until Tuesday, few people had seen the dashcam video from July 6 when Officer Jeronimo Yanez killed Castile in Minnesota. It was shown in court during Yanez’s trial.
He was acquitted Friday of one count of second-degree manslaughter and two counts of intentional discharge of firearm that endangers safety. Yanez testified he feared for his life because he believed Castile was pulling his own gun from his pocket. But prosecutors said Yanez was too quick to pull the trigger.
How the shooting unfolds
The nearly 10-minute video shows Yanez pulling over Castile on a wide street on a clear summer evening. Yanez approaches the white 1997 Oldsmobile and leans in to speak through the driver’s window. Another officer approaches but stands farther away on the passenger side.
Yanez tells Castile his brake lights are out.
The video does not show Yanez’s point of view or the inside of Castile’s car, where his girlfriend Diamond Reynolds and her 4-year-old daughter were passengers.
Yanez asks for Castile’s driver’s license and insurance.
Thirty seconds into the conversation, Castile begins to tell Yanez that he has a weapon.
Castile: Sir, I have to tell you I do have a …
Castile: … firearm on me.
Castile: I (inaudible)
Yanez: Don’t reach for it then.
Castile: I’m, I, I was reaching for …
Yanez: Don’t pull it out.
Castile: I’m not pulling it out.
Reynolds: He’s not.
Yanez: Don’t pull it out.
Yanez, whose hand had been near his gun, pulls out his weapon and fires seven rapid shots into the car, striking Castile five times.
Reynolds: You just killed my boyfriend.
Castile: I wasn’t reaching …
Reynolds: He wasn’t reaching.
Yanez: Don’t pull it out!
Reynolds: He wasn’t.
Yanez: Don’t move! (Expletive.)
Yanez is then heard shouting obscenities and breathing heavily as the tape continues.
The child exits the car amid the chaos, and the other officer picks her up.
Reynolds begins sharing a live video on Facebook, narrating in calm tones. She is told to exit the car and walk backward to an officer.
Officers are seen removing Castile from the car, placing him on the street, and treating him.
Others interview Yanez, who shouts obscenities repeatedly.
“I’m (expletive) up right now,” Yanez says at one point.
Yanez: I told him (sigh) ‘Can I see your license?’ And then he told me he had a firearm. I told him not to reach for it. And when he went down to grab, I told him not to reach for it. And then he kept it right there, and I told him to take his hand off of it. And then he, he had his grip a lot wider than a wallet.
Other officer: OK.
Yanez: And I don’t know where the gun was, he didn’t tell me where the (expletive) gun was.
Other officer: OK.
Yanez: And then it was just, getting hinky, he gave, he was just staring straight ahead and I was getting (expletive) nervous and then, I told him, I know, I know, (expletive) I told him to get his (expletive) hand off his gun.
Yanez gives a brief explanation of the events to a supervising officer on the scene. Yanez says he told Castile not to reach for the gun and that Castile’s “grip (was) a lot wider than a wallet.” Yanez continues, saying, “I don’t know where the gun was. He didn’t tell me where the (expletive) gun was.”
Prosecutors: Yanez lost control
During the trial, prosecutors portrayed Yanez as a nervous officer who lost control of his traffic stop. He was too quick to pull the trigger after learning Castile had a gun, based on an unreasonable suspicion that he was a robbery suspect, they said.
Yanez, then a St. Anthony officer, testified Castile put his hand on his firearm, not his wallet or identification papers, and was pulling the gun from his pocket.
“I didn’t want to shoot Mr. Castile,” Yanez testified. “That wasn’t my intention. I thought I was going to die.”
Castile’s fully loaded gun was found in his shorts pocket, Ramsey County prosecutors said.
The day after the shooting, two officers from the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension interviewed Yanez, who was accompanied by two lawyers. Yanez said he had not watched the dashcam video at that point.
According to the transcript, Yanez said he wasn’t sure what Castile had in his hand but thought it was a gun.
Castile reached his right hand toward his pocket or the car console, which is where people usually carry firearms, and had his hand into a C-shape, as if to put his fingers around the butt of a gun, he said.
“I know he had an object and it was dark. And he was pulling it out with his right hand,” he said.
Everything happened very fast, Yanez said.
“It seemed like it was (a) split second from the time he told me (about having a gun), to the time he was reaching down, to the time I gave him direction, to the time he had his hand wrapped around it and then I gave him more direction and shots were fired,” he said.
The officer said he “had no other option” except to shoot.
Yanez said he smelled burnt marijuana as he approached the car, which he mentions when explaining his reasons for shooting.
“I thought … if he has … the guts and the audacity to smoke marijuana in front of the 5-year-old girl and risk her lungs and risk her life by giving her secondhand smoke and the front seat passenger doing the same thing then what, what care does he give about me,” Yanez said.
He said he’d made hundreds of traffic stops in which the drivers informed him they were carrying firearms.
Those stops ended safely “100 percent of the time” because the drivers kept their hands in view and told him when they were reaching for their wallets or other objects, he said.
Other key points
In the police dashcam video, Joseph Kauser, an officer who arrived to provide backup, stood on the right side of Castile’s car with his thumbs hooked in a casual position on the inner armpit area of his bullet resistant vest.
He testified in St. Paul that he didn’t see a gun inside the car and didn’t hear most of the conversation between Yanez and Castile, who appeared calm and relaxed. Kauser said he was surprised when Yanez started shooting.
At trial, radio calls showed Yanez said he was going to stop a car to check IDs because two occupants look like armed robbery suspects. He says, “Driver looks more like one of our suspects just cause of the wide-set nose. … I couldn’t get a look at the other passenger, and I’ll wait for you.”
Reynolds, Castile’s girlfriend who was in the passenger seat, said Castile was reaching for his driver’s license and registration, not the gun.
Her Facebook livestream captured Yanez yelling, “I told him not to reach for it!” and a bleeding Castile saying, “I wasn’t reaching.”
The Facebook video, which did not include the shooting, also was shown in court. It includes a portion of the same events as the dashcam video, but the view is from inside the car. Yanez’s weapon is seen pointing toward the bloodied Castile. “You told him to get his ID, sir, and his driver’s license. Oh my God, please don’t tell me he’s dead.”
When Reynolds is outside of the car, the audio can be heard as the video shows telephone or electrical wires across the blue sky.
“They threw my phone, Facebook,” she said. “Please, Jesus, no,” she is heard wailing. “Please no, don’t let him be gone, Lord.”
Protests, disbelief after acquittal
The jury heard two weeks of testimony and deliberated 4½ days before finding Yanez not guilty.
The verdict was met by protests Friday.
Glenda Hatchett, an attorney for Castile’s family, said Wednesday she’s still stunned by the verdict.
“He’s not a fleeing felon,” she said on CNN’s “New Day.” “He’s not combative with the police, he’s doing everything that he’s been asked to, but yet he still loses his life.”
In a commentary Saturday, CNN legal analyst Joey Jackson asked, “How did a jury not see what the rest of the world did? And why does, and how could, this continue to happen? Will there ever be accountability?”
One juror, Dennis Ploussard, spoke to the media, saying the jury didn’t take its duties lightly and carefully considered the evidence. For much of the 27 hours of deliberation, all but two jurors were in favor of acquittal.
According to CNN affiliate WCCO-TV in Minneapolis, Ploussard said that when jurors came to understand the definition of “culpable negligence,” they decided Yanez had acted as any other officer would.
The St. Anthony Police Department said shortly after the verdict that Yanez would no longer be with the police force.
CNN’s Steve Almasy, Artemis Moshtaghian, Ralph Ellis and Bill Kirkos contributed to this report.