The manslaughter case against St. Anthony Police Officer Jeronimo Yanez in the death of Philando Castile brimmed with jaw-dropping moments from the instant it first entered the national consciousness. So it’s no surprise that one has been largely ignored.
The officer, accompanied by two attorneys during a July 7, 2016, interview with Bureau of Criminal Apprehension agents, seemed to suggest at one point that his decision to discharge his service weapon was not prompted solely by fear of the firearm in Castile’s car.
It also had to do, he said, with what Yanez perceived as Castile’s disregard for the dangers of second-hand smoke.
The full text of the interview was released June 20 with 2,174 pages of documentation related to the case.
Among many newly released documents, the files contain statements from emergency medical crews, eyewitnesses, Castile’s girlfriend Diamond Reynolds, and transcripts of audio recordings captured by the live microphone Yanez wore on the night of the July 6, 2016, incident.
Castile died following a routine traffic stop in Falcon Heights after telling Yanez he had a gun in his car. The shooting happened 74 seconds after Yanez flashed his squad car lights, signaling Castile to pull over.
In the 27-page transcript of his July 7 interview with BCA Agents Doug Henning and Christopher Olson, Yanez described as his first impression upon approaching the car was of the “odor of burning marijuana.”
That much is well known. What has been little reported is the explanation Yanez offered immediately afterward for discharging his weapon.
“I thought if [Castile] 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 care does he give about me?” Yanez said. “And, I let off the rounds.”
BCA interviewers did not pursue Yanez’s statement about secondhand smoke.
Yanez was found not guilty of all counts against him on June 16. On the same day, he lost his job at the St. Anthony Police Department.
All publicly released files associated with the case are available online at https://dps.mn.gov/divisions/ooc/news-releases/Pages/BCA-Yanez-Case-File.aspx.