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PHOTOS: Armed Robber Officer May Have Believed Was Philando Castile

One of the armed robbery suspect photos that the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension widely circulated to the news media of a Lauderdale, MN gas station robbery that occurred July 2.

KARE 11, a TV station in Minneapolis, has obtained new audio it says may be dispatch traffic from the Philando Castile shooting, and it shows the officer may have stopped Castile because he resembled an armed robbery suspect due to the width of his nose. Castile’s uncle, Clarence, tells KARE 11 the audio means Castile was racially profiled. (You can also listen to it here.)

KARE says it’s unclear which robbery the audio is referring to for sure, but noted that the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension had sent out a press release a few days before the Castile shooting saying “St. Anthony police were investigating a gas station robbery that occurred in nearby Lauderdale on July 2.” Castile was shot by a St. Anthony Village police officer. Castile, a beloved school cafeteria worker, had only a minor criminal history in Minnesota, almost entirely traffic, and nothing even close to a crime as serious as armed robbery.

So what did the armed robbery suspects look like in the July 2 gas station robbery? There were two of them, and authorities said both were men. Many local news sites broadcast the photos at the time because police were trying to find the robbers. They were released by the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.

You can see multiple photos of the armed robbery suspects here on local TV news site WCCO.

Castile posted many undated photos of himself on his Facebook page. Here’s one:

An undated photo of Philando Castile from his Facebook page.

An undated photo of Philando Castile from his Facebook page.

KARE said in its report that the station has not been able to verify the possible scanner audio with police, which it received from a viewer, receiving no response to queries about its authenticity; Heavy has also reached out to the police spokesperson asking to verify it and received no response. Heavy has also contacted BCA, asking for verification as well as the full dispatch audio.

In the audio, the man, purportedly the officer, says “I’m going to stop a car,” the officer says on the recording. “I’m going to check IDs.  I have reason to pull it over.”

“The two occupants just look like people that were involved in a robbery,” the man continues. “The driver looks more like one of our suspects, just ‘cause of the wide set nose,” the officer continues.

Clarence Castile, Castile’s uncle, told KARE 11: “I just thought it was kind of insane to pull somebody over saying they matched a robbery suspect by having flared nostrils. It is kind of hard to see flared nostrils from a car.”

Clarence Castile. (Facebook/Clarence Castile)

Clarence Castile. (Facebook/Clarence Castile)

The news station also said “Diamond Reynolds said she and her deceased boyfriend did not match the descriptions on the audio clip.” Reynolds streamed a dramatic video of the shooting aftermath on Facebook Live which has gone viral, sparked protests, and may have motivated the Dallas shooter, at least in part.

Details of the the Lauderdale Armed Robbery

WCCO reported the robbery occurred on Saturday, July 2. Castile was killed on Wednesday, July 6. The WCCO report on the Lauderdale robbery says it occurred at 7:36 p.m. at a Super USA, 2424 Larpenteur Avenue. (Castile was shot at the intersection of Larpenteur Avenue and Snelling Avenue, KTSP reports, although the audio says Larpenteur and Fry.)

“Two male suspects armed with handguns took cash from the register and cartons of Newport cigarettes,” said the WCCO report.

LillieNews.com, a local site in Minnesota, also ran the photos when police released them to seek the public’s help in finding the armed robbers. LillieNews said police provided a suspect description of the armed robbers as follows:

“Employees described one suspect to police as a black man with longer than shoulder-length dreadlocks, who wore blue jeans, a green plaid long-sleeved shirt, dark-color shoes with white highlights, glasses and a baseball cap printed with marijuana leaves, the release says. He may have had a mustache.

The other suspect was described as a black man with shoulder-length dreadlocks, who wore tan pants, tan shoes with white soles, a green jacket, a green baseball cap and glasses, the release says. He also had some of his hair pulled into a bun through the strap on the back of his hat and had a small mustache and facial hair on his chin.”

Frame from Reynolds' video shows Castille bleeding in his car after being shot. (Facebook)

Frame from Reynolds’ video shows Castille bleeding in his car after being shot. (Facebook)

LillieNews quoted the St. Anthony interim police chief as saying that St. Anthony police “set up a perimeter around the store” and searched the area with help from Roseville and St. Paul police.

The news site said “K9s tracked the suspects to a nearby apartment parking lot where the trail ended. He said it’s believed the men left the area in a vehicle from the parking lot.”

KARE 11 also ran the suspect photos in an earlier report.

The officer’s lawyer said that the officer was reacting to Castile’s gun, not race, said USA Today. The lawyer for officer Jeronimo Yanez told The Associated Press that Yanez was reacting to “the presence of that gun and the display of that gun” when he shot Castile, according to USA Today.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune has verified through a source that Castile had a gun permit at the time of the shooting and Castile’s girlfriend, Lavish Reynolds, says he told the officer he was armed. Police have released few details on the shooting, other than to say it originated in a traffic stop and they recovered a gun.

Here is the original Facebook Live video recorded by Reynolds:

Racial profiling by police has been a concern in Minnesota; the Legislature commissioned an extensive study on racial profiling that 65 police departments participated in.

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