Before fatally shooting Philando Castile, St. Anthony Village police officer pulled him over because his “wide-set nose” matched the description of a robbery suspect, an apparent recording of police communications reveals.
St. Anthony Village police reported they pulled Castile over for a broken tail light. Yet a video released by witness Gregory Ford shows the tail lights on Castile’s car were both in working order.
Minnesota police had cited the 32 year-old Castile 52 times over the past 14 years for minor traffic infractions, resulting in 86 violations. 52 of those violations occured in Falcon Heights, the mostly white suburb of St. Paul where Castile was shot.
(KARE news radio, an NBC affiliate, released the audio. The locations and license plate in the recording match police reports of the incident. St. Anthony Village police have not yet independently verified the tape’s authenticity.)
Investigators at the scene.
“I’m going to stop a car,” the officer says in the audio. “I’m going to check IDs. I have reason to pull it over. The two occupants just look like people that were involved in a robbery.”
“The driver looks more like one of our suspects, just ‘cause of the wide-set nose.”
Thomas Kelly, an attorney representing Jeronimo Yanez, the officer who shot Castile, said Yanez “was reacting to the actions of the driver. This had nothing to do with race. This had everything to do with the presence of a gun . . . and the display of that gun.”
“He’s licensed to carry, he was trying to get his ID … and he let the officer know he had a firearm,” Diamond Reynolds, Castile’s fiance, said on a live Facebook feed after the shooting. She said Castile announced he was reaching for his wallet.
Fiance Diamond Reynolds speaks out at a rally a day after Castile’s death.
Reynolds recorded a live video of the immediate aftermath of the shooting that shows the officer pointing his gun and giving orders as Castile bleeds.
Jeffry Martin, president of the St. Paul NAACP chapter, estimates that 80 to 90 percent of people pulled over in Falcon Heights are “either African-American or native African” who are cited for minor infractions. “Things hanging from the rearview mirror, a crack in your windshield that doesn’t obscure your view, a faulty turn signal,” Martin gave as examples. “There are so many traffic laws on the books that if you cited everyone for all of them, you would write a thousand more tickets a day.”
Reynolds demanded change in a July 12, BBC interview. “I was thinking about our rights, right there at that very second.”
“If we can’t turn to our higher power, you know officers and things of that sort, then who are we to turn to if people that are supposed to be protecting us, are the ones that are assassinating us?”
Yanez and his partner have been placed on paid administrative lead pending an investigation.