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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) – The Minnesota police officer who fatally shot a black man during a traffic stop last month is back on administrative leave after briefly returning to limited duty last week, the city of St. Anthony said in a statement Wednesday.
The city said it decided to put Officer Jeronimo Yanez back on leave "after reviewing concerns and other feedback from the community."
Yanez fatally shot 32-year-old Philando Castile during a traffic stop on July 6 in nearby Falcon Heights. Castile's girlfriend — who video streamed the shooting's gruesome aftermath live on Facebook — said Castile was shot several times while reaching for his ID after telling the officer he had a gun permit and was armed.
In an interview with The Associated Press last week, St. Anthony Police Chief Jon Mangseth said the 28-year-old Yanez, who is Latino, has had a good reputation since joining the city's police force in late 2011. The chief described Yanez as energetic and intelligent.
"He has a real sound ability when it comes to communicating and relating to people," Mangseth said last week. "He showed me that he could shine in that public eye."
But after Yanez returned to work, a group of protesters gathered at the police station, demanding he be charged. Castile's uncle, Clarence Castile, was among the family members at the protest. When an AP reporter told him of the change in Yanez's status on Wednesday, he said he was glad.
"This guy just shot and killed a man, and a decision hasn't been made whether or not it was a good and lawful shoot — so there's no reason why he should be at work right now," Clarence Castile said. "As far as I'm concerned, he shouldn't go back to work until the case is over — until he's exonerated or been charged."
The city said Wednesday that it decided to put Yanez back on leave "out of respect to the sensitive nature of the tragic incident." The statement said Yanez's status with the police department will be reviewed after the state's investigation into the shooting is complete.
Yanez's attorney said Wednesday that he was unaware of his client's status change with the police department.
Glenda Hatchett, an attorney for Castile's mom, Valerie, released a statement on her client's behalf saying the family "was very much opposed to his reinstatement and is pleased that the decision to reinstate the officer has been reversed."
Castile's death set off weeks of protests and calls for Yanez to be charged. It also put the collection of St. Paul suburbs that St. Anthony police serve in the group of communities dealing with officer-involved shootings of black men, which also include Baltimore, Milwaukee and Ferguson, Missouri.