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Judge weighing case against officer in black man’s death

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ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A judge is expected to decide Wednesday whether the case against a Minnesota police officer who shot and killed a black man during a July traffic stop should be dismissed or proceed to trial.

Lawyers for St. Anthony Police Officer Jeronimo Yanez argued at a hearing Wednesday that the case should be dismissed because their client saw a gun and perceived a threat to his life. They said Yanez responded accordingly when he shot Philando Castile.

“Under the circumstances here, he had no choice. He had to shoot,” said defense attorney Paul Engh.

But prosecutors argued the case should proceed because the defense raised several issues that prosecutors dispute — including whether or not Yanez saw Castile’s gun — and that those issues should be decided by a jury.

Ramsey County District Court Judge William Leary III said he’d issue a decision Wednesday afternoon.

Castile, who was black, was killed July 6 after he was pulled over in the St. Paul suburb of Falcon Heights. The shooting’s gruesome aftermath was streamed live on Facebook by his girlfriend, who was in the car along with her young daughter. Prosecutors said the 32-year-old elementary school cafeteria worker told Yanez he was armed and then was shot seven times. Authorities later discovered Castile had a permit to carry a weapon.

Yanez, who is Latino, is charged with manslaughter and other offenses. He has not yet entered a plea, but his attorneys have indicated he will plead not guilty if the case proceeds.

During Wednesday’s hearing, Engh told Leary that Castile was impaired by marijuana and had no right to be carrying a gun or driving while under the influence.

Prosecutor Jeff Paulsen argued that the issue of whether or not Castile was impaired should be decided by a jury. He also said that while the defense claims Castile was reaching for his gun, prosecutors claim he was reaching for his wallet to get his license, which Yanez had requested.

Paulsen countered Engh’s arguments, saying: “Philando Castile’s right at issue was the right not to be killed for no good reason.”

Castile’s mother, Valerie Castile, spoke to reporters after the hearing. She said she could not comment on the case. “It’s in God’s hands,” she said.

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Follow Amy Forliti on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/amyforliti . More of her work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/amy-forliti



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