Girlfriend of Minnesota black motorist killed at traffic stop didn't trust police

Reuters News
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Posted: Jun 06, 2017 12:41 PM

By Todd Melby

ST. PAUL, Minn. (Reuters) - The Minnesota woman who streamed images of her boyfriend as he lay bleeding to death after being shot by a policeman during a traffic stop said on Tuesday she showed the video because she did not trust police.

Diamond Reynolds, who streamed the immediate aftermath of the July 2016 shooting on Facebook Live, said during emotional testimony at the Ramsey County District Court in St. Paul, Minnesota, that she was afraid for her 4-year-old daughter, who was in the vehicle's back seat when the shooting occurred.

"I know people are not protected against the police," she said. "I feared for my daughter's safety and my safety because a gun was pointed in our car."

The killing of Philando Castile, 32, by St. Anthony Police Department officer Jeronimo Yanez, who was charged with second-degree manslaughter, sparked national outrage and triggered weeks of protests in St. Paul and Minneapolis.

The shooting in the St. Paul suburb of Falcon Heights during a traffic stop, like similar incidents across the United States, fueled public debate about appropriate use of force by law enforcement against minorities.

Yanez fired his gun because Castile was reaching for a weapon he disclosed he had, Yanez's attorney, Paul Engh, said during opening arguments on Monday. Yanez, who is scheduled to testify during the trial and previously pleaded not guilty, feared for his life, Engh said.

Reynolds, dabbing her eyes with a tissue and sometimes sobbing, said she was "broken, hurt, confused, lost."

The police dashboard camera video of the traffic stop, as well as Reynolds' Facebook post, were played in court. Yanez fired seven shots, hitting Castile five times, including twice in the heart, prosecutors said.

Starting about 40 seconds after the shooting, Reynolds streamed images of a bloody Castile from the vehicle's passenger seat.

Yanez has said he was justified in stopping Castile's car because he resembled a suspect in a convenience store robbery, according to court documents. Castile's vehicle also had a broken brake light.

After Castile was stopped, Yanez asked him to present his driver's license and insurance card. Castile disclosed he was carrying a licensed handgun. The exchange took just over a minute and Castile's permit to carry a gun was later found in his wallet.

In response to questions by Yanez's attorney, Reynolds said she and Castile smoked marijuana a lot, but not every day. Marijuana was found in the car after the shooting.

(Reporting by Todd Melby; Editing by Dan Grebler)