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From FB Live to witness stand: Philando Castile’s girlfriend testifies in cop’s trial

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

But when her Facebook Live video was played during the officer’s trial Tuesday, she couldn’t bear to watch. She turned her head away and wept.

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

Reynolds took the stand for a second day to testify in the manslaughter trial of police officer Jeronimo Yanez.

Minnesota police officer Jeronimo Yanez, who’s accused of fatally shooting Philando Castile during a traffic stop last July, pleaded not guilty in a St. Paul court Monday, Feb. 27, 2017.

Prosecutors asked Reynolds why she broadcast Castile’s final moments online.

“People are not protected against the police,” she replied.

Reynolds also said she wanted everyone — including her young daughter — to know the truth.

Dueling stories

But the first day of Yanez’s trial presented two very different narratives.

Defense attorney Paul Engh said Castile, 32, had ignored the St. Anthony police 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, Engh said. The attorney said Castile was high on marijuana and had THC in his system.

The defense said 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 boyfriend 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, 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 her boyfriend 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.