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Police shooting victim Castile was issued permit to carry gun in 2015

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

A letter released by the family of Philando Castile shows that he had been issued a permit to carry a handgun in 2015. 

Castile was shot and killed last week by a St. Anthony police officer, after being pulled over while driving in Falcon Heights, a suburb of St. Paul.

Castile's girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, said the officer shot Castile after he told the officer he had a permit and a gun with him.   The confirmation letter from Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek is dated June 4, 2015. Permits in Minnesota are valid for five years.

Family members and the Hennepin County Medical Examiner's report said Castile lived in St. Paul, which is in Ramsey County. However, the permit was issued in Hennepin County. And according to the law regulating gun permits, a permit-holder is required to notify the agency that issued the permit of an address change within 30 days.

Police at the shooting scene.
Police secure evidence at the shooting scene on Larpenteur Avenue in Falcon Heights, where Philando Castile was shot by a St. Anthony police officer.
Christopher Juhn for MPR News

If a person fails to do that, he or she can face a petty misdemeanor. But that doesn't invalidate the permit. Joseph Olson, a professor at Mitchell Hamline School of Law, helped write the state's handgun carry law, and said it's only a minor infraction. 

"In this respect, carry permits are treated exactly the same as drivers' licenses," Olson said. "You have an obligation to report your change of address. But if you don't, your driver's license is still good."

Not much is known about why Castile decided to get the permit. Castile's mother, Valerie, told MPR News on Tuesday that her son didn't necessarily feel threatened. She said he got a permit just to exercise his constitutional rights.

Valerie Castile said her son and daughter both had permits to carry, and they did so responsibly.

"When they were in the car, that's what they did — they'd get in the car with [the gun] in the pocket, on the hip, whatever, take it off, out of the purse — into the glovebox," she said.

Valerie Castile at a press conference on Tuesday.
Valerie Castile (center) listens as attorney Glenda Hatchett speaks during a press conference in St. Paul Tuesday.
Evan Frost | MPR News

Investigators from the state Bureau of Criminal Aprehension will study the events leading up to the shooting, which may be documented on squad video or audio. In that case, the audio or video could be released after the investigation is completed. 

For now, the details from the shooting come from the account of Castile's girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, who said in a video moments after the shooting that he had told Officer Jeronimo Yanez that he had a gun and a permit and was reaching for his wallet.  

The lawyer representing Yanez said the officer fired due to the "presence of a gun."

It is not known how many African-Americans in Minnesota have permits to carry firearms. Each year, the BCA releases a permit to carry report, which includes data such as the number of permits granted and broad demographic information, including the age, sex and ZIP code of permit applicants. But it doesn't include racial data. According to the BCA, the state issued 44,696 permits statewide and 5,818 in Hennepin County last year.