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Special prosecutor will join county's Philando Castile probe

FALCON HEIGHTS, Minn. -- A Minnesota prosecutor says he won't step aside for a special prosecutor while considering charges against police in the shooting of a black motorist, but he's adding one to his team.

Ramsey County Attorney John Choi said Friday that he was elected to uphold the law and intends to do so during the investigation into the July 6 death of Philando Castile. But he says he'll "incorporate" a special prosecutor to enhance trust in the results. Choi named former U.S. Department of Justice attorney Don Lewis to that role.

Aftermath of Minnesota police shooting streamed live on Facebook

Choi said he asked Lewis to sign on after advocates and Castile's family urged him to turn the entire case over to a special prosecutor.

"I understand that there is distrust of the system and some may question the ability of a prosecutor to hold police accountable when we rely on them to present cases to our office," Choi said. "However, if I handed this case off to any other person outside of the duties and authority of my office, I would not only be abdicating my responsibility, but potentially creating mistrust."

Choi said Lewis would "bring fresh eyes and an independent perspective to our work."

"This independent perspective can only enhance the integrity and the legitimacy of our decision in this case," Choi said.

Castile, 32, died after being shot by St. Anthony police officer Jeronimo Yanez after a traffic stop July 6.

Yanez's attorney has said the officer was reacting to seeing a gun. Castile's girlfriend, who streamed the aftermath of the shooting live on Facebook, said Castile was shot while reaching for his ID, after telling the officer he had a gun permit and was armed.

Choi said Lewis will help his office determine whether the case should go before a grand jury.

The state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is investigating the shooting. The case has not yet been presented to Choi's office for review, and a timeline remains unclear.

Lewis, who is black, is a shareholder at Minneapolis-based law firm Nilan Johnson Lewis and has extensive criminal and civil experience, reports the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. He was reportedly hired by the city of Minneapolis to investigate potential wrongdoing in the arrest of a community activist, and concluded the arrest was justified.

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