Audio: Cops May Have Thought Philando Castile Was a Robbery Suspect
Minnesota police may have pulled over Philando Castile on the night he died because they thought he resembled a robbery suspect due to his “wide-set nose,” audio from police dispatch indicates.
On July 6, around 9 p.m., Castile was shot several times while in his car in Falcon Heights after he was pulled over by two officers for a broken tail light, according to his girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds. Reynolds and her 4-year-old daughter were in the car when Castile was shot.
St. Anthony police Officers Jeronimo Yanez and Joseph Kauser were identified last week as the two Minnesota officers involved in Castile’s shooting death, according to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.
In the audio, which was obtained by ABC News today, an officer can be heard saying that he is going to pull over a car to check identifications and that he has “reason to pull it over.” (ABC News has edited the audio to condense the action.)
Then, the officer says the people in the car look like robbery suspects, noting the driver’s “wide-set nose.”
“The two occupants just look like people that were involved in a robbery,” the officer says. “The driver looks more like one of our suspects, just ’cause of the wide-set nose.”
Castile was shot multiple times and later died at a hospital. In a July 7 statement, the Minnesota Department of Public Safety Bureau of Criminal Apprehension said Yanez was the shooter.
“Officer Yanez approached the vehicle from the driver’s side and Officer Kauser from the passenger side. At one point during the interaction, Officer Yanez discharged his weapon striking Castile multiple times. No one else was injured,” the statement said. “A gun was recovered at the scene. Officer Yanez radioed a request for an ambulance.”
The aftermath, which included footage of Castile bleeding in the car, was caught on video by Reynolds, which she live-streamed on Facebook.
When the officer had initially approached the car, Reynolds said, Castile had told him that he was carrying a firearm.
“I told him not to reach for it,” the officer can be heard saying in the background of Reynolds’ video. “I told him not to get his hand out.”
The Minnesota Department of Public Safety Bureau of Criminal Apprehension launched an independent investigation July 7 on the officer’s use of force, said Commissioner of Public Safety Mona Dohman.
The Department of Justice “will continue to monitor the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension investigation into the death of Philando Castile and stands ready to provide assistance to the Bureau as needed,” the department said in a statement.
The two officers involved in the shooting death have been with the St. Anthony Police Department for four years and are both on administrative leave.
In an interview recently, Tom Kelly, an attorney for Yanez, said that the officer had pulled Castile over in part because he resembled a robbery suspect. Just a day earlier, police released images of suspects from a recent robbery. Kelly claims that Yanez had reason to pull Castile over and reason to use deadly force.
“There was more than one reason to stop the car. There was more than the reason that the brake light was cracked,” Kelly said. “This incident had nothing to do with race and everything to do with the presence of a gun.”
But in an interview with ABC News today, Reynolds said the gun was never a threat. She said last week that after she’d informed the officer that her boyfriend was licensed to carry, Castile was shot multiple times.
“[Castile] was never even asked was he armed or anything. We told him. He told him,” she said.
And a bystander who took video of Castile’s car at the scene said the tail lights on Castile’s car were working that night.
“They said there was a tail light in the back that was out, but there’s no tail light out. You can see the car is on,” Gregory Ford says in the video, which shows multiple police vehicles with flashing lights behind Castile’s car.
St. Anthony police declined to comment on the audio.