Former Officer Jeronimo Yanez told investigators a day after the fatal July 6 shooting that he was “hit with a odor of burning marijuana” after he pulled over Castile, his girlfriend and her then-four-year-old daughter — an alleged smell he used in justifying why he’d put seven bullets in the St. Paul man.
“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 the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.
The officer, claiming Castile’s “wide set nose” had seemed to match up with that of an armed robbery suspect, also speculated that Castile’s firearm possession might be linked to the marijuana smell.
“Being that … the inside of the vehicle smelled like marijuana um I didn’t know if he was keeping it on him for protection, for, from a, a drug dealer or anything like that,” he said.
The interview transcript — released Tuesday alongside graphic dashcam video footage — provided new insight into Yanez’s mindset when he opened fire on Castile, who had seconds earlier informed the officer he had a firearm and insisted he wasn’t reaching for it.
Castile’s girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, streamed the shooting’s aftermath on Facebook Live to millions of horrified viewers.
A jury on Friday cleared Yanez of all three charges he faced, including manslaughter. Castile’s family plans to file a civil suit against the St. Anthony cop, who lost his job after the acquittal.
The dashcam video lined up with Reynolds’ claims on Facebook Live that Castile had assured the officer he wasn’t reaching for his gun — though Yanez neglected to mention the assurance in his interview.
“Don’t pull it out,” Yanez warns on video.
“I’m not pulling it out,” Castile replies.
“He’s not,” echoes Reynolds.
Despite Yanez’s apparent concern for Reynolds’ daughter’s lungs, he also admitted she’d been in his line of fire — while claiming to have “acknowledged this little girl first” because he “wanted her to be safe.”
“So if I’m facing the driver she was, she was diagonal from him. Behind the backseat or front seat passenger. So she was in my line of fire,” he said.
“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.”