The girlfriend of Philando Castile has told a court she broadcast the moment her boyfriend was shot dead by a police officer during a traffic stop because she feared for her own life.
Diamond Reynolds testified on Tuesday before a trial where Minnesota cop, 29-year-old Jeronimo Yanez, is charged with manslaughter over the death of Castile last July.
The fatal shooting little more than a minute after Castile was pulled over for a broken taillight captured the world’s attention because Reynolds live-streamed the shooting’s aftermath on Facebook.
Reynolds and her four-year-old daughter were in the car on July 6 when Castile, 32, was pulled over.
The emotional former partner cried as squad car video, her Facebook video and still images of Castile were shown in court.
Asked why she took out her phone and began filming after Castile was shot, Reynolds said she wanted to make sure if she died: ‘people would know the truth.’
‘Because I know that the people are not protected against the police,’ she said.
‘I wanted to make sure if I died in front of my daughter that people would know the truth.’
Yanez is charged with manslaughter and two counts of dangerous discharge of a firearm for endangering Reynolds and her daughter.
During her testimony on Monday, Reynolds discussed her life with Castile and the events of the day he died.
She said Castile always carried his gun, and she saw him leave the apartment that morning with his firearm in its holster.
It comes after prosecutors played a portion of squad-car video in their opening statement in which Castile informs Yanez that he is carrying a gun.
‘OK, don’t reach for it then,’ Yanez replied. Castile started saying he wasn’t reaching for it, but the officer interrupted and said, ‘Don’t pull it out.’
‘I’m not pulling it out,’ Castile replied as Yanez opened fire. Castile’s last words were, ‘I wasn’t reaching for it.’
Prosecutor Rick Dusterhoft said Yanez, who is Latino, can be heard on the video in the minutes after the shooting, telling a fellow officer he didn’t know where the gun was. That portion of the video wasn’t played Monday.
Dusterhoft said nobody saw the gun until paramedics found it in Castile’s pocket.
But defense attorney Paul Engh countered that Castile ignored his commands and reached for his gun. He said Yanez will testify that he saw Castile’s hand on the grip. He said Yanez then followed his training and made an instant decision to open fire because he believed his life was in danger.
‘But for Castile’s continuous grip on that handgun, we would not be here,’ Engh said. Castile’s death was a tragedy, ‘but a tragedy is not a crime,’ Engh said.
The jury was seated earlier Monday after defense attorneys unsuccessfully tried to block one of two black jurors from the final group of 15.
Attorney Earl Gray argued that the juror, an 18-year-old woman who emigrated 10 years ago from Ethiopia, didn’t understand the criminal justice system well enough to follow the proceedings. Prosecutor Jeff Paulsen said Yanez’s attorneys wanted to block the woman because of her race. Judge William Leary III kept the woman on the jury.
A young black man who manages a Wendy’s restaurant is also on the panel.
Black representation in the group of 15 roughly matches the black population of Ramsey County, which includes St. Paul and several suburbs. Three of the 15 jurors are alternates, but it isn’t clear which ones.
The death of Castile was among a string of killings of black people by police around the country, and it renewed concerns about how officers interact with minorities.
Castile’s family claimed he was profiled because of his race.
Minnesota Democratic Governor Mark Dayton also injected his viewpoint, saying police likely wouldn’t have fired if Castile had been white.
Castile had a permit to carry his handgun, and Dusterhoft told the jury about it after the judge overruled the defense’s objections.
Yanez’s attorneys have argued that Castile was stoned at the time of the traffic stop and that it affected his behavior.