UPDATE: 2:19 p.m. ET, July 6, 2021 —
JFive years ago on Tuesday the world saw the infamous video of Philando Castile bleeding and taking his last breath after being shot by a Minnesota police officer.
The 32-year-old was shot dead by a St. Anthony police officer Jeronimo Yanez less than two minutes after being pulled over for a broken taillight on July 6, 2016. Castile’s girlfriend Diamond Reynolds and her young daughter were also in the car. Reynolds pulled out his phone and recorded on Facebook Live and the haunting images of an innocent man’s death would forever be etched in our memories.
Yanez has been charged with two counts of dangerously discharging a firearm in November 2016, but was later acquitted. The Castille family received $3 million as part of a settlement with the town of St. Anthony.
But the memories of Philando Castile live on in many ways. The school cafeteria employee who was remembered as a model for the children he served, his legacy of giving was kept alive by his mother, Valerie Castile. It is thanks to her work that her son’s name has not been forgotten.
1. The creation of the Philando Castille Relief Foundation
After her son’s tragic death, Valerie created the Philando Castile Relief Foundation in his memory to help other families affected by gun violence. The organization provides these families with resources such as bereavement counselling, housing, electricity or utility bills. According to foundation website, he also helps with meal preparation, financing and funeral assistance. The foundation is also working around the school meals epidemic.
2. Raise awareness of lunch debt
Valerie made it clear that her son, who worked as a cafeteria supervisor before his death, was passionate about making sure his students were fed. In May 2019, Valerie presented a check for $8,000 to Robbinsdale Cooper High School for help eliminate debt of more than 300 seniors, who otherwise would not have been able to graduate until they paid their remaining meal balance. She also donated $10,000 to JJ Hill where Castile worked.
“It’s something that Philando held dear,” Valerie said. “He would pay for the children’s meals out of his own pocket instead of letting a child go hungry that day, he would pay for it himself.”
In June of that year, Valerie worked alongside the Minnesota representative. Ilhan Omar and sen. Tina Smith for create legislation that would put an end to the “lunch shame”. The legislation would prohibit schools from singling out students for inability to pay lunch; the school would be reimbursed by the federal government for the balance. Schools would also be prohibited from publishing lists of students who cannot pay or attempting to collect their meal fees through a collection agent.
3. Creating a toolkit to combat police shootings
In March 2019, Valerie teamed up with John Choi, the Ramsey County prosecutor who charged Yanez, to create a toolkit which aimed to help both law enforcement and the community better assess police shootings and provide data to agencies on how to collect data on racial disparities in the justice system. The kit would immediately assign a prosecutor to a police shooting case and give that prosecutor four to six months to make a decision on whether to press charges. They are also required to make their report public and if they decide not to prosecute, they must provide an explanation to the family. The kit is also designed to foster a connection with the community and help citizens know their rights.
Rest in power, Philando Castile.