Philando Castile’s Girlfriend Testifies in Trial of Officer Facing Manslaughter Charge

"I just want justice for everyone," Diamond Reynolds said. "Everyone around the world. Not just for my boyfriend and the good man that he was." (Credit: CNN)

Diamond Reynolds didn’t just watch her fiancé die at the hands of a police officer. She made sure the world watched, too.

There was nothing Reynolds could do to save Philando Castile. As he bled, the officer kept his gun pointed into his car.

Reynolds’ only recourse was to broadcast the shooting’s aftermath on Facebook Live. Within hours, countless strangers had watched Castile’s final moments — and decried what they called excessive police force.

Now, 335 days later, Reynolds will take the stand for a second day Tuesday to testify in the Minnesota officer’s manslaughter trial.

Dueling stories

Two very different narratives emerged from the first day of St. Anthony Officer Jeronimo Yanez’s trial.

Defense attorney Paul Engh said Castile, a 32-year-old school cafeteria worker, had ignored the officer’s commands and reached for his weapon when he was instructed not to do so.

Castile’s fate was a result of his inability to follow orders, and he was high on marijuana, adding that THC had been found in his system, Engh said.

The defense added that Yanez was trained on reasonable use of force and had never been disciplined during his time with the police department.

But prosecutors argued Yanez was negligent by not giving Castile clearer direction when he learned Castile had a weapon.

“He didn’t tell him to freeze” or put his hands up, Assistant Ramsey County Attorney Richard Dusterhoft said. “Officer Yanez’s actions led to Philando Castile’s death.”

Yanez is charged with second-degree manslaughter, plus two felony counts of dangerous discharge of a firearm for allegedly endangering Reynolds and her daughter. Reynolds’ then-4-year-old child was sitting in the back seat when Castile was shot in the driver’s seat.

One of the bullets Yanez fired pierced the front seat and came very close to the girl, prosecutors said, adding that another bullet could have hit Reynolds but was blocked by the front seat armrest.

Reynolds: My fiancé supported police

When Reynolds took the stand Monday, she wept as soon as she saw a photo of Castile.

During her half-hour testimony, Reynolds said she and Castile had sometimes attended police barbeques to “show support.” Castile, a school cafeteria worker, had no animosity toward police, she said.

Though Castile was not her daughter’s father, Reynolds said he cared for the child and helped provide for her.

It was Castile’s protective nature that made him want to get a gun permit, Reynolds said. Recent killings in the neighborhood, along with drugs and prostitution, spurred Castile to carry a gun for self-defense, she said.

“He always had it for protection for himself and protection for his family,” she said.

When Yanez pulled Castile over on July 6, allegedly for a broken taillight, Castile mentioned to the officer that he had a weapon on him. Minutes later, he was dead.

The fatal encounter

During their brief encounter in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, Yanez warned Castile not to reach for the firearm. Seconds later, Yanez fired seven shots — five of them striking Castile, prosecutors said.

Castile’s last words were, “I wasn’t reaching for it,” insisting he wasn’t trying to get his registered handgun, according to a transcript in the criminal complaint against Yanez.

Castile had a permit to carry a firearm in his wallet. He had been reaching for his ID in his back pocket when he was shot, Reynolds said.

Reynolds’ Facebook Live broadcast did not show what led up to the shooting, nor the shooting itself. But it did show Reynolds crying and screaming in bewilderment as to why Castile was shot.

“Please don’t tell me he’s gone!” she screams. “Please, Jesus, no!”

The video quickly went viral, sparking nationwide “Black Lives Matter” protests and renewing the debate over excessive use of force against black men.