Jury finds Minnesota cop not guilty in shooting of black motorist Philando Castile

ST. PAUL, Minn., June 16 (Reuters) - A jury on Friday found the Minnesota police officer who fatally shot a black motorist during a traffic stop last year not guilty of second-degree manslaughter.

St. Anthony Police Department officer Jeronimo Yanez was charged after he fatally shot PhilandoCastile, 32, last July. The aftermath was streamed on social media by the driver's girlfriend, who was sitting in the passenger seat, and the incident drew national attention and led to weeks of protests in St. Paul and Minneapolis.

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Yanez had testified that he was afraid for his life and that Castile did not follow his orders.

Castile's mother, Valerie Castile, speaking to reporters outside the court after the verdict, said: "I'm mad as hell right now. Yes, I am. My first born son died. ... Just because he was a police officer that makes it OK."

Valerie Castile, who abruptly left the courtroom after the verdict was read, said the verdict shows that "the system continues to fail black people."

Castile's sister, Allysza Castile, who spoke after her mother, said: "I will never have faith in the system."

In the courtroom after the verdict was read, people could be heard cursing and one woman sobbed.

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A rally was planned for Friday night at the state capitol. St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman said that centers would be open around the city for community discussion.

"As people across our city, state and country react to the jury's verdict, I urge each of us to move forward in a way that is peaceful and respectful of everyone – residents, demonstrators and police officers alike," Coleman said in a statement.

The shooting in the St. Paul suburb of Falcon Heights, like similar incidents across the United States, fueled public debate about the appropriate use of force by law enforcement against minorities.

During his testimony, Yanez said he feared for his life after Castile disregarded his commands and began reaching for a firearm that Castile had disclosed he had in his possession.

"I was scared to death. I thought I was going to die," Yanez said last week in response to questions from his attorney. "I had no other choice."

Prosecutors said Yanez was not justified in firing his gun, saying Castile was courteous and non-threatening.

(Writing and additional reporting by Timothy Mclaughlin; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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