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Closing arguments set in police officer's manslaughter trial

14 Juin 2017

Closing arguments are set for Monday, June 12, in a Minnesota police officers manslaughter trial in the death of a black motorist.

St. Anthony police officer Jeronimo Yanez is charged with second-degree manslaughter and two counts of risky discharge of a firearm, all felonies.

Yanez said that Castile reached for a gun when he told him not to and the prosecutor claims there was not a gun in sight.

Reynolds' video of the gruesome aftermath of the shooting was shared widely, and included her statements that Castile hadn't been reaching for his gun. That video began only after Castile had already been shot five times.

Squad vehicle video played repeatedly for the jury last week shows the situation escalated quickly, with Yanez shooting Castile just seconds after the 32-year-old volunteered, "Sir, I have to tell you, I do have a firearm on me".

Now on trail for second-degree manslaughter, Yanez told jurors that the shooting was justified because he had feared for his life. Five shots hit Castile; two piercing his heart, prosecutors said.

Yanez has not spoken publicly about the shooting before Friday, though his comments to investigators have been reported in the media.

The jury heard closing arguments Monday and deliberated for about a half-day.

Other officers testified that if they were told a driver had a gun, they would order him to put his hands on the steering wheel or dashboard, which Yanez did not do.

A jury weighing the fate of a Minnesota police officer charged with manslaughter in the shooting death of a black motorist asked Tuesday to re-watch two key videos.

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Castile responded, "I was reaching", but before he finished, Yanez, with right hand on his holster, said, "Don't pull it out".

The finger was injured during the incident and Paulsen explained to jurors that the photo is additional evidence that Castile's trigger finger could have not been in his pocket or on the gun when he was shot.

Assistant Ramsey County Prosecutor Jeff Paulsen began his closing arguments shortly after 10 a.m., describing what he called Officer Yanez's impulsive decision that led to Castile's ultimate death - one that he said makes him guilty of culpable negligence.

Prosecutors countered that Yanez never saw the gun and had plenty of options short of shooting the 32-year-old school cafeteria worker, who they say was never a threat and had a gun permit. They also argued that Castile had smoked marijuana before the traffic stop and was stoned, which influenced his actions.

Castile had THC, the high-giving component of marijuana, in his blood when he died. The rest are white. None is Latino. It's not clear which three members are the alternates, who will be dismissed after closing arguments.

Yanez testified Friday that he stopped Castile in the St. Paul suburb of Falcon Heights because he thought Castile looked like one of two men who had robbed a nearby convenience store a few days earlier.

The police video of the traffic stop and Reynolds' Facebook Live post were played in the courtroom last week.

Paulsen reminded the jury of the recorded statements on Monday, saying they should consider them accurate.

Gray immediately said he wanted to "get rid of that theory".