'I don't want you to get shooted': New evidence from Yanez investigation shines light on process
ST. PAUL, Minn. (KMSP) - Comforting words from her daughter couldn't mask the pain Diamond Reynolds felt just minutes after St. Anthony Police Officer Jeronimo Yanez shot seven rounds at her boyfriend Philando Castile.
In newly released video from the night of the incident, Reynolds' four-year-old daughter repeatedly pleads with her to lower her voice and cooperate with police--afraid that she, too, might be shot.
"Mom, stop cussing and screaming because I don't want you to get shooted," she said.
"Okay, give me a kiss. My phone just died, that's all." Reynolds replies.
It's the latest piece of evidence released from the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension on the investigation of Yanez, a massive cache of files that encompasses the almost year-long job of processing, interviewing, documenting and compiling all the data that makes up the hours of video footage, thousands of photographs and more than 2,000 pages of paperwork.
This information becomes public after the conclusion of a trial, and a "not guilty" verdict last Friday puts interest in the findings at a premium.
It's a glimpse into the rarely-seen process of a law enforcement agency investigating one of its own, stretching from the days before the shooting until the day of the verdict, including everything in between. The sheer volume of information leaves the public with a few memorable bits and pieces: A four-year-old girl locked in a squad car, her mother in handcuffs; Reynolds flinching at the text message informing an officer of her boyfriend's death; emergency responders skirting the scene after seeing officers with assault rifles.
Reynolds' Facebook live video, streamed in the moments after Castile was shot, roiled the country and sparked a year of protests. The effort, however, left Reynolds' phone without any battery--a common problem at an incredibly inconvenient time.
A dead phone prevented Reynolds from being able to call for a ride to the hospital, so she gave it to police for charging, according to incident reports. The officer, however, put the phone on airplane mode and prevented Reynolds from accessing it to preserve its contents. Eventually, the phone was formally booked into evidence and searched.
A video from the backseat of St. Anthony Officer Joseph Kauser's squad car shows the incident unfold as Reynolds and her daughter process the preceding events.
"It's okay, I'm right here with you," the four-year-old says. "I can keep you safe."
While this is happening, Officer Yanez is being driven to the St. Anthony Police Department to be processed for evidence. With a bloody thumb visible and a "Police Lives Matter" bracelet around his wrist, he cannot take his uniform off or even wash his hands until he's been photographed thoroughly, according to the documents.
Reynolds went through her own processing, talking to two agents before she was allowed to visit her boyfriend in the hospital--with no information as to his condition.
While it's unclear how exactly Yanez found out Castile had died, Reynolds' reaction was caught on video during her interview with the BCA in a heartbreaking moment, transcribed below.
Officer: Okay. So.
DR: What're they saying? I know you just got the text.
CO: Yeah I think I got, I don't think--Phil has died. I got some bad news and I'm sorry it happened.
Officer: Did he say anything after he was shot? (inaudible)
DR: He didn't say anything. His eyes rolled in the back of his head and he just looked at me.
DR: (crying) Anything. There was nothing to say.
Officer: I'm sorry. It's terrible.
DR: This officer (inaudible, crying). He took him away from us (crying). It's not fair. It's not fair. Please get me out of here.
After Reynolds, every passerby, every officer, every emergency worker and every doctor who saw anything or heard something or was standing nearby when Yanez fired his service weapon had to be interviewed, hundreds of pages transcribed and edited and later, redacted for release to the public.
Graphic dashcam video from Yanez' squad car also had to be saved--and backed up--a crucial piece of evidence for a trial that was bound to hinge on those few seconds, all caught on tape.
The moment the first shot was fired started a chain of events for the BCA. Caution tape goes up, dozens of placards numbering each piece of evidence are laid; every blood splatter, bullet hole and shell casing must be accounted for--photographed, documented and notarized in a corresponding report.
Even after the last police lights went dark and traffic resumed on Larpenter Avenue in Falcon Heights, months of processing remained.
Castile's car was taken on a flatbed truck with a police escort to an evidence warehouse, its contents laid bare under unflinching flourescent lights, each section labeled: rear driver, front passenger pocket, glove compartment.
A bag of marijuana, later mentioned in court, was discovered under a sweatshirt in the back seat. Groceries, bought just an hour beforehand, were documented and returned to Reynolds the next day, according to police documents. Castile's wallet and its contents--still in the car--laid bare, his valid permit to carry a firearm displayed next to credit cards, food coupons and receipts.
New shoes, travel packets and an invitation to the four-year-old's preschool graduation joined other, less notable items, and in their absence the car's stripped-down interior was scoured for bullets, fingerprints and every last drop of blood.
In much the same manner, Castile's lifeless body was also diagrammed and studied, scoured for bullet fragments and tested for intoxicants. Tetrahydrocannabinol, known better as THC, was found in excess--establishing for the Yanez defense team a link between the marijuana in Castile's backseat to the decisions he was making at the time of his death, regardless of the tests' accuracy.
THE LEAD UP
Both men's actions in the hours leading up to the incident--normal, everyday happenings under any other circumstances--were tracked down and scrutinized, every moment set on a clock ticking down to those crucial 38 seconds as their two paths crossed.
Yanez was on the lookout for an armed robbery suspect who fled a nearby convenience store--in recorded dispatch audio he can be heard citing a resemblance between the suspect and Castile as a reason for the traffic stop, along with a more immediate broken tail light.
At least two traffic stops prior to Castile's that day were flagged, though the analysis was ultimately deemed "unremarkable."
Castile, for his part, was caught on security cameras at Cub Foods, walking through the aisles with what would otherwise appear a happy family if not for the benefit of hindsight.
Security video and traffic cameras and cell phone locations--timed down to the second--were compared, evidence later showing that Castile did not, in fact, commit the robbery in question.
Search warrants for Castile and Reynold's phones and other items, including social media accounts and physical mail, were issued as police searched for potential "criminal activity" and other evidence in the days, weeks and months leading up to the shooting.
The only evidence taken from Officer Yanez' cell phone were text and call logs starting six minutes before the shooting, while Reynolds' information was analyzed for the entire three days prior to the incident.
Castile held a valid permit to carry a firearm in the state of Minnesota, meaning years of records were held at Total Defense, Inc. in Ramsey, Minn., where he completed his training. Discrepancies in Castile's actions on the night of his death and his training were of particular note in interviews with the center's owner.
BCA agents also sifted through years of Yanez' employment records as well.
Fourteen weeks in the St. Anthony Police Department's Field Training Program, with 10 distinct performance categories assessed in four phases. More than 200 weekly performance summaries. Yearly use of force reports. Firearm trainings. Drug tests.
Anything to explain what happened on that warm night in July--though answers are rarely so simple.
DAY 1: Squad video played, opening statements
DAY 2: Diamond Reynolds and Yanez's partner testify
DAY 3: Use of force experts testify
DAY 4: Prosecution rests, police chief takes the stand
DAY 5: Officer Yanez takes stand, defense rests
DAY 6: Closing arguments, jury begins deliberations
DAY 7: Jury re-watches 2 key videos, no verdict reached
DAY 8: Jury deadlocked, judge asks them to continue
DAY 9: Yanez jury enters 4th day of deliberations