Officer who killed black motorist to take the stand Friday

Jeronimo Yanez

Jeronimo Yanez

A Minnesota cop has testified that he was "scared to death" before he fatally shot Philando Castile when he saw the the man reach for his gun during a traffic stop.

Yanez took the stand in his own defense and testified why he decided to make a traffic stop on Castile's vehicle.

He told the jury that Castile stared straight ahead and had "total disregard" for the officer's commands to stop reaching for the firearm Castile had just seconds before disclosed he was carrying in the vehicle.

"I thought I was going to die", he told the jury.

As he wrapped up his remarks, Kapelsohn said provided that Yanez did see the gun, he did what "every reasonable officer in the country would have done".

Kapelsohn said it was possible Castile didn't have his hand in or near his pocket at that point.

According to the transcripts of the video of the incident, Castile responded by saying, "I'm not reaching for it".

Reynolds testified that Castile was reaching for his ID in his back pocket when he was shot.

Kapelsohn says if Yanez believed he saw a gun, he was justified to shoot.

He went on to say that Yanez used "due caution" to avoid injury to the two passengers in the auto - Castile's girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, and her 4-year-old daughter - when he stepped to the left of the vehicle and pointed his gun downward before firing.

"It changes the dynamic of the traffic stop", Yanez responded.

"When he was reaching, he looked straight ahead, continued to reach towards his pocket", Yanez told the jury.

Prosecutor Rick Dusterhoft asked Yanez about a statement to investigators where he said he saw the barrel of the gun before he fired. "My family's faces popped up in my mind, my wife and baby girl", the 29-year-old Yanez said, his voice choked with emotion.

Castile's girlfriend and four-year-old daughter were also in the auto at the time of the shooting.

Closing statements in Yanez's trial will begin Monday morning, followed by jury deliberations.

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Yanez has said he was justified in stopping Castile's vehicle because he resembled a suspect in a convenience store robbery, according to court documents.

On Friday, the St. Anthony police officer testified that he had been on the lookout for two suspects who had robbed a gas station four days prior.

State prosecuting attorney Jeffrey Paulsen cross-examined the Kapelsohn at length, suggesting he has a reputation for being pro-cop and using "creative" strategies in their defense.

Just where Castile had that gun, and whether or not it could be seen, could determine whether Yanez heads to prison or is set free.

The defense also called its own toxicology expert to the stand Thursday to weigh in on the evidence of marijuana use found in Castile's system during his autopsy.

After Castile was stopped, Yanez asked him to present his driver's license and insurance card.

He also questioned why he failed to give Castile clear commands, such as "don't move", or telling him to keep his hands on the steering wheel as officers are trained to do when they learn a driver has a firearm, especially if they become concerned about the person's movement. He rejected prosecutor Jeff Paulsen's assertion Friday that the central question in the case is whether Yanez saw Castile's gun.

Former police officer and police use-of-force expert Joseph Dutton shared his beliefs on the shooting with the jury hearing the manslaughter trial in Ramsey County District Court. Dusterhoft said that was significant because it would have meant Castile had the gun all the way out of his pocket when he was shot. Castile can be heard telling the officer: "I'm not pulling it [the gun] out".

"Correct, but it doesn't always mean that's what he was doing", Yanez said.

Yanez, 29, has been charged with one count of second-degree manslaughter and two counts of unsafe discharge of a firearm.

When asked by a lawyer if use of force was necessary, Yanez replied "Yes".

Under those circumstances, Yanez was left with no other choice but to draw his firearm and shoot, Dutton testified.

Yanez took the witness stand on the fifth day of testimony in his manslaughter trial.

Defense attorney Earl Gray says they have several witnesses to call Friday before calling Yanez either Friday afternoon or Monday.

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