A defense expert testified Thursday that a Minnesota police officer used “justifiable deadly force” in the fatal shooting last July of a motorist who had informed him he was carrying a gun.
Joseph Dutton, an officer for 31 years who now teaches classes on the use of force, said he is convinced that St. Anthony Officer Jeronimo Yanez saw a gun before he shot Philando Castile during a traffic stop in a St. Paul suburb.
Dutton said reviewed he reviewed all the videos, transcripts and police reports. He said he was convinced that Castile reached for the gun because of Yanez’s comments to investigators that he saw Castile’s hand form a C-shaped grip of the sort that would be used to grab a thick-gripped pistol. He said that was an “extraordinary,” important detail, though prosecutor Jeff Paulsen suggested it might have just meant that Castile was reaching to unbuckle his seat belt.
“I believe wholeheartedly he saw that gun,” Dutton said.
“Officer Yanez did what he had to do, which was to meet deadly force with deadly force,” he said. “There wasn’t time to do anything else.”
St. Anthony (MN) Police Chief Jon Mangseth testified that the shooting might have been justified even if the officer couldn’t see the gun.
“We have to look at the totality of the circumstances,” Mangseth said.
Defense attorney Paul Engh asked Mangseth whether it would be proper for an officer to shoot if a person had his hand on a gun and refused commands.
“It would be very concerning and I would expect action to be taken, given how quickly things can develop,” Mangseth said.
Defense attorneys argue that Castile was stoned at the time of the traffic stop and it influenced his response to the officer.
Autopsy reports concluded that Castile had smoked marijuana within about two hours of his death.
Officer Yanez is expected to testify in his defense either Friday afternoon or Monday.
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