As protests of police shootings of Black men continue in Minnesota and beyond, Valerie Castile marked five years since her son Philando’s death. A St. Anthony police officer shot and killed the St. Paul man during a traffic stop for a broken taillight in 2016.
Castile, 32, worked in the cafeteria at J.J. Hill Elementary School in St. Paul, the same school district he attended.
During the traffic stop, Castile, who had a permit to carry, said there was a weapon in the car. Seconds later, officer Jeronimo Yanez shot seven times, striking Castile five times. There was a woman in the passenger seat and a young child in the back seat. Prosecutors and the family said Castile was complying with Yanez’s demands.
“It just breaks my heart. He was such a good man, a caring man and a loving man,” said Valerie Castile.
Valerie Castile is an active member in a group of families, mostly mothers, whose lives have been shattered by police violence. They spoke outside the Governor’s Residence in St. Paul Tuesday.
“I didn't want to meet these people. Not under these circumstances. Not under these circumstances,” Castile said. “But I know them now. And we have a bond, an unbreakable bond and it's an ugly bond.”
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Another bond Castile shares with some is that there was video. Sitting next to Castile and unhurt in the gunfire, Diamond Reynolds pulled out her phone, pointed it at her mortally wounded boyfriend and described what had happened on Facebook Live. The video also captured Yanez’s reaction, and Reynolds responding to the officer. It was shared widely soon after the shooting.
Yanez, the first officer to be charged with manslaughter in a line-of-duty killing, was acquitted by a Ramsey County jury in July 2017.
Valerie Castile said she’s frustrated there has not been more changes made in policing and police accountability. Activists and some Democratic lawmakers pushed to limit pretextual traffic stops but that effort failed in a special session of the Minnesota Legislature this year. Castile herself has focused on changing when officers may use force.
After several spoke, a group of nearly 200 walked around the block of the governor’s mansion, chanting.
Castile then held a candlelight vigil, as she has each year since, at the site of her son’s fatal shooting. The stretch of Larpenteur Avenue not far from the Minnesota State Fairgrounds is now named Philando Castile Memorial Avenue.