Nonprofit, nonpartisan journalism. Supported by readers.


Philando Castile’s girlfriend says police officer should have been charged with murder

REUTERS/Eric Miller
Diamond Reynolds weeping at a rally outside the Governor's Residence in August.

Plenty of reaction to a police officer being indicted in a shooting. For ABC News, Julia Jacobo reports, “The girlfriend of Philando Castile has said she believes the Minnesota police officer who shot and killed him should have been charged with murder instead of manslaughter. ‘Murder to the highest extent of the law would be more suitable to this case because this was my best friend. This was my best friend,’ Diamond Reynolds said.”

In the New York Times, Christina Capecchi and Mitch Smith recount the events that got us here, writing, “Mr. Castile, who had been pulled over dozens of times before, seemed to know the routine: He kept his seatbelt fastened, greeted Officer Yanez and handed over his insurance card, according to prosecutors’ version of events. Then, before his girlfriend said he reached for the wallet that contained his driver’s license and permit to carry a pistol, Mr. Castile said, ‘Sir, I have to tell you that I do have a firearm on me.’ Within seconds, Officer Yanez, of the St. Anthony police, had shouted, ‘Don’t pull it out,’ and Mr. Castile and his girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, tried to assure him that he was not grabbing the gun. But Officer Yanez quickly fired seven rounds, fatally wounding Mr. Castile just 62 seconds after the traffic stop began.”

Hannah Perry, for Britain’s Daily Mail says, “The director of the state’s police officers association called the charges ‘disappointing’ and called for the public to refrain from judging Yanez.  [Ramsey County Attorney John] Choi got the case in late September and began reviewing the evidence for possible charges. He resisted pressure immediately after the shooting to turn the case over to a special prosecutor, but added one to his team to get an outside perspective.  He also enlisted the help of national use-of-force consultants.

The MPR Trio of Jon Collins, Riham Feshir and Tim Nelson says, “Despite the hundreds of times police officers shoot and kill people while on duty, it’s rare they face murder or manslaughter charges. In many cases, state laws and court decisions have justified officers in using deadly force. Ex-FBI agent Larry Brubaker, who has researched and written two books on fatal officer-involved shootings that have occurred in Minnesota, said this is the first time an officer has been charged for a fatal shooting in Minnesota in more than 200 cases that spanned over three decades. According to a database created by Phil Stinson, an associate professor of criminology at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, police officers across the country shoot and kill people 900 to 1,000 times a year. Stinson found that over the past 12 years, 77 officers were charged with murder or manslaughter. Of those 77 officers, 27 have been convicted.”

The big dogs are lining up behind Ellison. Matt Shuham at Talking Points Memo reports, “Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) on Wednesday formally endorsed Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) to lead the Democratic National Committee. Warren, who said Ellison would be a ‘terrific’ choice for the position on Friday, joins a long list of politicians, party officials, and labor leaders who have already endorsed the congressman, who formally announced Monday that he would seek the position. ‘I admire Keith’s values, his grit, and his dedication to making this country work not just for some of our kids but for all of them,’ Warren said in a statement.”

As for our first SnowMageddon, the PiPress says, “the National Weather Service says a winter storm with potentially significant accumulations will affect a large portion of the state on Friday. A strong surface low-pressure system will move from the southern Plains on Thursday, across northern Wisconsin on Friday and into the Upper Peninsula of Michigan by Saturday. Snow will fall north and northwest of the low’s track. The storm track now extends from southwestern Minnesota to northeastern Minnesota, with the Twin Cities on the boundary of a rain/snow mix.”

Good luck with this. Josh Verges of the PiPress says, “St. Paul Public Schools wants a former student and his family to pay if the district is found liable for an attack on a Central High School teacher last year. The teacher, John Ekblad, is suing the school district, along with former superintendent Valeria Silva and assistant superintendent Theresa Battle, in U.S. District Court in St. Paul. He alleges the district failed to protect him from 16-year-old Fon’Tae O’Bannon, who assaulted Ekblad when the teacher tried breaking up a lunchroom fight in December 2015. The school district filed a third-party complaint in the civil case Tuesday, asking that the family be required to pay Ekblad if the district is found responsible for his injuries.”

Give the poor kid a break. From Wisconsin, the AP reports, “A federal judge told Wisconsin prison officials on Wednesday that they must release an inmate featured in the Netflix series ‘Making a Murderer’ by Friday evening. It’s unclear if Brendan Dassey will finally walk free, however, because state attorneys subsequently rushed to prepare an emergency filing with the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago seeking to block his release.” Dear Badger State judicial system: You could not look worse. 

Meanwhile, as America is made great again, Christopher Magan of the PiPress says, “South St. Paul is the latest school district to deal with hurtful comments made by students in the wake of the Nov. 8 presidential election. A video of a student making racist comments and telling racist jokes to classmates was posted to Facebook and was watched more than 7,000 times before it was taken down Tuesday. In the video, obtained by the Pioneer Press, a group of students is having a heated political discussion with one student accusing another of being racist. The student responds by making racist comments and shouting ‘Trump’ as the video ends abruptly.” 

Speaking of our new era … MPR’s Lorna Benson reports, “Advocates for transgender rights are hailing a Ramsey County court ruling that Minnesota’s refusal to cover transition-related surgeries violates the state constitution. State lawmakers enacted the ban in 2005, selling it as a cost-saving measure, and it only applied to people receiving state Medical Assistance and MinnesotaCare benefits. This week Judge William Leary III said the ban violates the right to privacy and interferes with the medical decisions transgender people make about their bodies. The law also stigmatizes transgender people, said Teresa Nelson, legal director for the ACLU of Minnesota.” 

Excuse me, but what? Susan Du at City Pages writes, “Some parents can’t help loving their children regardless of their gender or sexual orientation. Others feud for years. Anmarie Calgaro, the mother of a 17-year-old trans girl from northern Minnesota, chose to sue. On Tuesday, Calgaro filed suit against Park Nicollet Health Services for allegedly providing ‘medical treatment for a sex change from male to female,’ and Fairview Health Services for prescribing ‘narcotics.’ (Not hormones, interestingly.) She’s suing the St. Louis County Public Health and Human Services for paying for it, and the St. Louis County Schools for classifying the child as an adult with decision-making rights. Also named as a defendant: Calgaro’s 17-year-old trans daughter.”

Can we get even a two-week break? Rachel Stassen-Berger of the PiPress says, “Outspoken former state Rep. Ryan Winkler, who stepped down from the Legislature last year to move overseas with his family, announced Wednesday that he is making plans to run for Minnesota’s attorney general. A Democrat who was known for verbal jousting on the House floor as well as diving into policy, Winkler has been a frequent visitor to Minnesota since he moved to Belgium last year. In the waning days of the election this month, he was door-knocking and deer-hunting in the Bemidji area.”

Comments (7)

  1. Submitted by Jim Million on 11/17/2016 - 09:49 am.


    Certainly understood. Foreign press coverage…not.

    Grieving process is considered to be good, if resolved in some positive perspective.
    Any call for “murder” is, of course, part of that here. One doubts the facts support that.
    Perhaps those here with criminal law backgrounds will explain the charging technicalities.

  2. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 11/17/2016 - 10:09 am.


    It is interesting that the charge wasn’t murder. What we know about the incident certainly supports that charge. And in saying that, I am not venturing any sort of opinion on the guilt or innocence of the accused of any charge. Why and how was the decision made not to give the jury that option?

    To some extent, a criminal trial can be a negotiation, and the outcome of a negotiation can be affected by where the parties start out initially. In the jury room, a murder charge can be negotiated down to a manslaughter conviction. But what is a manslaughter charge negotiated down to?

    Always, we have to think about the background. For whatever reason, juries are extremely reluctant to convict policemen for actions committed in the line of duty. The jury in this case will be looking for a reason not to convict, and the prosecution may very well have given them one.

    • Submitted by Jim Million on 11/17/2016 - 10:27 am.

      Still wondering…

      Do the “facts” as you percieve them, warrant any level of murder here?
      From direct video account, we saw an officer in some sort of panic, at least extreme fear. That, to me, indicates an emotional/irrational rather than rational response? Where is the foundation for “murder” here?

      I know we have developed a habit of over-charging to leave room for lesser charges in resolution.
      That’s a worn tactic, to me. Shouldn’t we take time with objectivity to charge more accurately in the first place?

      I’d prefer to be charged according to the legal definitions rather than hope for some jury to lower the penalty, based on emotional/semi-rational/environmentally induced/intrinsic bias among the members.

  3. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 11/17/2016 - 11:42 am.

    Do the “facts” as you percieve them, warrant any level of murder here?

    Oh yes. A murder charge can be brought. But let’s recall the bringing of a charge represents nothing more that the opinion of someone who won’t make the decision. Just as a practical matter, it’s highly unlikely that a jury would ever convict here for murder, something that may well have factored into the charging decision.

    “That, to me, indicates an emotional/irrational rather than rational response?

    Fair enough, but being emotional or irrational aren’t crimes.

    “Where is the foundation for “murder” here?”

    You can look at the statue, but this was an intentional act that resulted in death. That’s a foundation for a murder charge.

    “Shouldn’t we take time with objectivity to charge more accurately in the first place?”

    The decision of what is an accurate or inaccurate criminal charge belongs to the jury. We can all be thankful it isn’t left up to prosecutors.

  4. Submitted by Jim Million on 11/17/2016 - 12:03 pm.

    Thank You

    I was wondering about the practical issues of bringing 2nd degree murder charges as opposed to what were charged here.

  5. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 11/17/2016 - 12:35 pm.

    “I was wondering about the practical issues of bringing 2nd degree murder charges as opposed to what were charged here.”

    The prosecutor has to worry about alienating the police department. If he pushes too hard, they will simply walk away from him.

    • Submitted by Jim Million on 11/18/2016 - 02:09 pm.

      and here?

      Do you feel this might be the case here? I haven’t noticed any broader questioning of the charge(s).

Leave a Reply