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Castile, Philando Divall (1983-2016)

Image Ownership: Public domain

Philando Divall Castile, killed in a controversial police shooting in 2016, was born on July 16, 1983 in St. Louis, Missouri. He graduated from Saint Paul Central High School in 2001 and got a job working for the Saint Paul Public School District from 2002 until his death. Castile took an interest in the field of nutrition and started his career as a nutrition services assistant at Chelsea Heights Elementary School and Arlington High School, both in St. Paul, Minnesota.  He then moved on to a higher position at J. J. Hill Montessori Magnet School in St. Paul in August 2014.

On July 6, 2016, Castile was pulled over as part of a traffic stop by Officers Jeronimo Yanez and Joseph Kauser in Falcon Heights, a suburb of St. Paul.  According to officers, Castile and the passenger allegedly resembled suspects involved in an earlier robbery.  Castile and his girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, were returning from grocery shopping earlier in the evening. He had gotten a haircut, had dinner with his sister, Allysza, and picked up Reynolds from his residence in St. Paul.  Yanez walked up to the side window and requested that Castile hand over his license and proof of insurance.  Castile did and told Yanez he had a gun in his possession. Moments later Officer Yanez told Castile not to take it out. Castile said he was not pulling out the gun. Yanez yelled, “Don’t pull it out!” and pulled his own gun from his holster, striking Castile seven times at point blank range. Castile died on the scene.

Castile’s shooting prompted demonstrations by members of Black Lives Matter and their supporters. One demonstration on June 16, 2017 involved over 2,000 protesters who walked the streets of St. Paul and who eventually blocked Interstate 94, the main east-west traffic route through the city. Eighteen people were arrested during the demonstration including one journalist.

Two days after the shooting, Ramsey County Attorney John Choi requested a “prompt and thorough” investigation into the crime. After the investigation, Yanez was arrested on November 16 and tried for the shooting on June 16, 2017 where he faced up to 10 years in prison.  The jury, consisting of five women and seven men, including two African Americans, found Yanez not guilty. Following the trial, Castile's mother, Valerie Castile, received nearly a $3 million settlement by the city of St. Anthony, Minnesota, where Yanez was employed.

In remembrance of Philando Castile, the Philando Castile Memorial Scholarship was established at St. Paul Central High School. Castile’s death was the latest in a number of police killings of African Americans that sparked demonstrations and led to demands for police reform across the nation.

Sources:
“Minnesota Officer Acquitted in Killing of Philando Castile”, NY Times, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/16/us/police-shooting-trial-philando-castile.html; “Philando Castile shooting: Dashcam video shows rapid event”, CNN, http://www.cnn.com/2017/06/20/us/philando-castile-shooting-dashcam/index.html; “What the police officer who shot Philando Castile said about the shooting,” Washington Post, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2017/06/21/what-the-police-officer-who-shot-philando-castile-said-about-the-shooting/.

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