Jeronimo Yanez claims he was so worried about how marijuana was affecting the 4-year-old girl in the car, that he shot into the vehicle, endangering her life and killing Philando Castile.
The recently acquitted police officer told the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension the day after the fatal July 6 shooting that he smelled marijuana after he pulled Castile over and used that as a justification for why he shot the motorist.
“I thought, I was gonna die and I thought if he’s, if he has the, the guts and the audacity to smoke marijuana in front of the five-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, what care does he give about me,” Yanez told investigators.
The Bureau of Criminal Apprehension released the interview transcript file after Yanez’ acquittal on manslaughter and reckless discharge of a firearm charges last week. This interview wasn’t introduced as evidence until the cross-examination of the officer on the stand. Judge William H. Leary III denied the request but allowed it to be referenced during cross-examination. Jurors asked to see the transcript during the trial, but the judge again denied the request.
Throughout the interview, Yanez admits to not remembering specific details and making rationalizations for his actions. Yanez went on to say, “Because usually people that carry firearms carry ‘em on their waistband. Um and or in between the seats and being that the inside of the vehicle smelled like marijuana, I didn’t know if he was keeping it on him for protection from a drug deal or anything like or any other people trying to rip him.”
Yanez also claimed to be concerned for the young girl in the back seat while he shot Castile.
“So she was in my line of fire, um but I, made sure that I directed my firearm down and as best as I could and let off rounds and as the rounds were going off I thought he was still moving for his gun and, (sigh) I it just seemed like he was pulling out the gun and the barrel just kept coming.”
Philando Castile was a 32 year old nutrition services supervisor at J.J Hill Montessori Magnet School in St. Paul Minnesota. He was driving with his girlfriend Diamond Reynolds and her four year old daughter. Reynolds streamed the immediate aftermath of the shooting on Facebook Live. Millions of people saw the viral video and demanded the release of Reynolds from jail.
Yanez isn’t quite off the hook just yet. He may face federal criminal charges of violating Philando Castile’s civil rights. However, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has recently moved to freeze the monitoring of troubled police departments and the likelihood of an investigation is slim.