In a tragically unsurprising development, the Minnesota police officer who fatally shot Philando Castile was acquitted of all charges on Friday, and in an emotional speech on the courthouse steps, Castile's mother decried the justice system for failing her son, saying that "the system continues to fail black people" and that "this city killed my son."
"The system continues to fail black people," Valerie Castile said. "And they will continue to fail you all. Like I said. Because this happened with Philando, when they get done with us, they're coming for you, for you, for you and all your interracial children. Y'all are next. And you'll be standing up here fighting for justice just as well as I am. I am so disappointed in the state of Minnesota."
St. Anthony police officer Jeronimo Yanez was charged with felony manslaughter and two lesser charges for killing Castile during a traffic stop in July 2016. The immediate aftermath of Castile's death was livestreamed on Facebook by his girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, who was in the car with her 4-year-old daughter when Yanez pulled the car over. Yanez could have served up to 10 years in prison if he'd been convicted.
"My son loved this state," Valerie said. "He had one tattoo on his body, and it was of the Twin Cities. The state of Minnesota, with 'TC' on it. My son loved this city, and this city killed my son, and the murderer gets away! Are you kidding me right now? We're not evolving as a civilization; we're devolving. We have taken steps forward, people have died for us to have these rights, and no we're devolving. We're going back to 1969. Damn! What is it going to take?!
NEW: Philando Castile's mother reacts to not guilty verdict against police officer in the death of her son: "I'm mad as hell right now." pic.twitter.com/rWsq3XnhHt— ABC News (@ABC) June 16, 2017
The legal question in Yanez's trial centered largely on what happened in the moments before he shot Castile. According to Reynolds, Castile told the officer that he was reaching for his driver's license, but Yanez opened-fire in the car before he could retrieve it. Yanez argued that Castile was reaching for a gun. Although footage from the squad car captured the shooting from a distance, it didn't clearly depict what happened inside the car during those crucial few moments.
"I'm mad as hell right now, yes I am," Valerie said in front of the courthouse Friday. "My first born, one son — dead, here in Minnesota...just because he was a police officer, that makes it ok. Now, they got free reign. He's found innocent on all counts. He shot into a car with no regard for human life, and that's okay? Thank you, Minnesota."
After Yanez's acquittal, Reynolds said she was "incredibly disappointed," saying in a statement that "it is a sad state of affairs when this type of criminal conduct is condoned simply because Yanez is a policeman." The city of St. Anthony announced that Yanez will no longer be on the city's police force following the verdict, but that he'll be offered a "voluntary separation agreement to help him transition to another career."