In a blow to the family and friends of Philando Castile, the officer who is responsible for his death, Jeronimo Yanez was allowed to return to work last week. However, his return was met with such a firestorm of complaints, anger, and protests, Yanez was put back on paid administrative leave.
After only one week on the job, Yanez is now back at home on paid vacation.
On Wednesday afternoon, the city released the following statement explaining the reasoning behind their decision:
“The City of St. Anthony has changed Officer Jeronimo Yanez’s status with the city’s police department. He will now return to administrative leave. The decision to change Officer Yanez’s status was made after reviewing concerns and other feedback from the community. Out of respect to the sensitive nature of the tragic incident and the concerns from the community, the Mayor, City Council and City Manager have decided to make this change. Officer Yanez’s status with the department will be reviewed when the investigation process related to the incident is complete.”
Just as Castile’s death triggered massive protests, so did Yanez’ return. Activists and local organizations demanded an independent prosecutor to review the case and determine whether or not Yanez should be criminally charged. However, Ramsey County Attorney John Choi has refused to turn over the case.
According to the Star Tribune, Choi’s office, instead, hired private attorney Don Lewis to act as a special prosecutor who will assist his team in-house. Choi still has to decide whether he will determine if Yanez should be charged with a crime, or whether he will turn the case over to a grand jury to decide.
Last month, in shocking video streamed on Facebook Live, Philando Castile, 32, is seen bleeding to death after a Minnesota police officer shot him through his driver-side car window. His girlfriend, Lavish Reynolds captured the horrific scene on her cell phone, narrating the tragic events and streaming them live on Facebook.
According to Reynolds, police pulled them over for a broken tail light and callously shot her Castile to death after he told the officers that he had a firearm and a conceal-and-carry permit. Reynold’s 4-year-old daughter was reportedly sitting in the back seat when the officer fired at least four bullets into Castile’s arm and chest.
Philando Castile was an innocent man, gunned down in cold blood by an officer trained to think the public is his enemy.
The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is still conducting its investigation and there is no date set for its close. When the investigation does come to an end, only then will Yanez’s fate with the department be decided.
As to why he was allowed to return to work in the first place, the department remains tight-lipped.
Chief Jon Mangseth wouldn’t discuss any details of the shooting, and would not say whether or not he thinks Yanez should be exonerated. He did, however, go out of his way to praise him last week.
“He has a real sound ability when it comes to communicating and relating to people,” Mangseth said. “He showed me that he could shine in that public eye.”
In Castile’s girlfriend’s video, Yanez is yelling expletives and pointing his gun at Castile as he lies bleeding in the driver’s seat of the car after he just killed him for no reason — sounds like he has an amazing sense of “communicating and relating to people.”
Castile was not a criminal and was an upstanding member of the community who now mourns his loss
“He’s concerned for his future and for his family,” the chief said of Yanez last week. “This has put him and his family front and center in our metro area, not to mention the nation.”
Had Yanez actually been concerned for his future last month, however, he may have thought twice before gunning down an innocent man.