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Officer Yanez Appears In Court, Released On Own Recognizance

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — It took less than five minutes Friday for the St. Anthony police officer charged with manslaughter to make his initial court appearance.

Jeronimo Yanez, 28, is pleading not guilty to charges he acted without just cause and shot a St. Paul motorist last July. The shooting of Philando Castile touched off a storm of protest, as yet another killing of a black man at the hands of police. Yanez will remain free without having to post any bail.

A dozen Ramsey County deputies stood guard inside the crowded courtroom where Yanez made his first appearance. The St. Anthony police officer is charged with three felonies, including manslaughter.

Before the hearing began, defense attorneys said they would have no comment about Yanez's not guilty plea and Yanez waived a formal reading of his complaint.

After the several minute hearing, a parent of a J.J. Hill Montessori School student, where Philando Castile worked, said she attended the court hearing out of respect for Phil.

"The school really loved him, and there are kids who are struggling without him," Sally Rafowicz said.

Yanez avoided cameras stationed at the front entrance and came in through another door of the Law Enforcement Center.

Judge Mark Ireland granted a defense request for a release without bail, citing their client's clean record and employment as a law enforcement officer. Ramsey County prosecutors didn't argue the request.

However, outside the courtroom some who attended the hearing questioned the fairness of a personal recognizance release.

"He walks outside the courtroom on personal recognizance. There are people in the African-American community right now who don't believe the man will be found guilty," Monte Lesure said. "How do you do that?"

The defense isn't saying if it will ask for a change of venue, based on the extraordinary amount of publicity the shooting and aftermath has received. That possibility brought harsh criticism from Castile supporters.

"It needs to be held in Ramsey County. He was murdered in Ramsey county and [the trial] should be held in Ramsey County, and not anywhere else in Minnesota," said Tyrone Terrill, with the Black Ministry Alliance.

Castile family members also left the courtroom without comment. For now at least, the officer at the center of the storm was free to go.

"I don't care that he's home or in jail, the bottom line for me is that he ends up in jail," Terrill said.

Yanez will return to court again on Dec. 19.

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