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Colleagues, family call Philando Castile good-hearted, hard worker

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Philando Castile
Philando Castile in an undated photo.
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Updated: 4:48 p.m.| Posted: 12:33 p.m.

The man shot and killed Wednesday by police during a Falcon Heights traffic stop worked in St. Paul public schools and was remembered warmly by friends, family and colleagues who are grieving his death.

Philando Castile spent much of his adult life as a cafeteria aide in St. Paul Public Schools. He'd worked for the district since he was 19, graduating from St. Paul's Central High School in 2001. 

In a statement Thursday, district officials described Castile, 32, as the ideal employee. He was promoted to a supervisor role in the district two years ago and worked at J.J. Hill Montessori School.

"Colleagues describe him as a team player who maintained great relationships with staff and students alike," the district said. "He had a cheerful disposition and his colleagues enjoyed working with him. He was quick to greet former coworkers with a smile and hug."

Philando Castile
Philando Castile in an undated photo.
Courtesy of Sam Castile

"He was a hard-working educator who played his part in preparing Minnesota children for successful lives," Education Minnesota President Denise Specht said in a statement. "He was a friend to his school colleagues, a companion to his girlfriend and a mentor to his students. Those kids need us now."

Kimberly Colbert, a Central High teacher and St. Paul Federation of Teachers officer, spoke to about 11,000 people about Castile's death at a national teachers union conference. She asked those in attendance to "remember him as we remember all other victims of the horrible violence that has been going on in our country."

Castile's shooting has attracted worldwide attention. The bloody aftermath was broadcast live via Facebook video captured by Castile's girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds.

Sam Castile
Sam Castile, the grandfather of Philando Castile, takes a phone call from his St. Paul apartment on Thursday.
Laura Yuen | MPR News

Antonio Johnson, a cousin of Philando Castile, described him as a soft spoken homebody who loved to play video games.

Many people who knew Castile say they can't understand how a person they describe as loving and gentle could meet such a violent end.

"They killed a innocent man," said his maternal grandfather, Sam Castile. 

He described Philando as a good "just plain young man" who worked steadily and lived with his mom until about a year ago.

"He was loving. He was caring. He stayed home, he went to work and he took care of his business," Reynolds said.

Sheila Dickinson said Castile did more than work at the lunchroom at J.J. Hill Montessori School when her daughter attended the school five years ago. Dickinson says Castile tutored her daughter in math and the thing she remembers most about him was his smile.

"Oh, he could really transform a room," Dickinson said, "And I thought, 'Wow, what a great role model.' I was just happy to see him in school." 

Castile did well in school, Johnson said, graduating high school with honors.

"He was one joyful person and he enjoyed life to the fullest until the last minute," Sam Castile said. "I imagine he was having fun with his girlfriend and [her] baby until his life was cut short."

In an email to student families and school staff, J.J. Hill Montessori School Principal Fatima Lawson called Castile's death "a tragic loss for our school, our staff and his family. Our hearts go out to all who knew him and we will definitely miss his presence this fall."