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Valerie Castile, the mother of Philando Castile, looks at a photo button of her son during a press conference on the state capitol grounds in Saint Paul, Minnesota, in July. Philando Castile was fatally shot by police. Photo by Eric Miller/Reuters

Jury finds Minnesota officer not guilty in shooting death of Philando Castile

A jury has found a Minnesota police officer not guilty in the shooting death of Philando Castile during a traffic stop last summer.

Jurors deliberated for more than 30 hours after closing arguments on Monday over the fate of officer Jeronimo Yanez, who faced one count of second-degree manslaughter and two counts of reckless discharge of a firearm in Castile’s death. The officer fatally shot Castile after pulling him over for a broken taillight outside St. Paul last year.

The decision comes after the jury, which at one point told Judge William H. Leary that they were deadlocked, had asked to reexamine some of the evidence.

The July 6, 2016, shooting received national attention when Castile’s girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, recorded the aftermath of the encounter on a Facebook Live video. Castile appeared in the video bloodied and slumped in the driver’s seat while Reynolds’ 4-year-old daughter is also in the car.

“He killed my boyfriend,” Reynolds is heard saying in the video.

“I told him not to reach for it!” an officer later identified as Yanez is heard yelling in the video. “I told him to get his hands up.”

“I am incredibly disappointed with the jury’s verdict,” Reynolds said in a statement provided by her lawyer. She said Yanez pulled over Castile because he “looked like a suspect,” even though he complied with the officer’s orders.

“It is a sad state of affairs when this type of criminal conduct is condoned simply because Yanez is a policeman,” she added. “God help America.”

Before this week’s deliberations, the testimony revolved around whether Yanez saw Castile reach for a weapon. In court, an emotional Yanez testified that he feared for his life and acted in self-defense when he opened fire on Castile. The officer added that Castile failed to comply with repeated orders to not reach for the gun.

The prosecution argued that Yanez never actually saw the gun and overreacted to Castile, who was legally carrying a gun.

“Unfortunately, I am not shocked, [although] it is what I was hoping against. There is only a 35 percent conviction rate with on-duty police-involved shootings of individuals in cases from 2005 to 2017,” former Baltimore prosecutor Debbie Hines told the NewsHour.

Many of the high-profile police shootings, including those in Ferguson, Missouri; Tulsa, Oklahoma; and Baltimore, have not resulted in officer convictions.

After closing arguments on Monday, Castile’s mother Valerie took to Facebook to thank the community for their support throughout the trial and calling for solidarity while the jury made its decision.

Valerie Castile also said Yanez had enough time to de-escalate the situation.

“My son was no threat to this guy,” she said in the video, “but my son is still dead.”

When the verdict was announced, Valerie Castile was seen storming out of the courtroom, Sarah Horner of Pioneer Press reported.

PBS NewsHour’s Rhana Natour contributed to this report.

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