Update: Philando Castile’s Mom Reaches Settlement Close to $3 Million
On July 6, 2016, Philando Castile was in Falcon Heights, a suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota, when he was fatally shot by Jeronimo Yanez, a St. Anthony, Minnesota police officer. Diamond Reynolds and her 4-year-old daughter were passengers. Diamond live-streamed Philando’s dying moments and the aftermath on Facebook. The officer shot 7 times, hitting Philando Castile 5 times, twice in the heart. Philando was 32-years old.
Yanez was charged and went to trial. He testified in court that he believed Philando matched the physical description of a robbery suspect, and that Philando was disobeying his commands and reaching for a gun. We followed the trial here and here.
Philando, who was licensed to carry a gun, had advised Officer Yanez that he had a firearm in the car. Prosecutors said he had done so to put the officer at ease, not to cause alarm.
The jury was deadlocked for almost a week, but ended up acquitting Yanzez. A juror gave an interview to MPR News on the condition of remaining anonymous.
“Jurors were quick to decide Yanez’s acquittal on felony weapons charges. The juror said photos of Castile’s body showed that Yanez was aiming away from the two passengers, Diamond Reynolds and her 4-year-old daughter.”
“What we were looking at was some pretty obscure things to a lot of people, like culpable negligence. You think you might know what it means: It’s negligent, but maybe pretty bad negligence. Well, it’s gross negligence with an element of recklessness … We had the law in front of us so we could break it down.”
“It just came down to us not being able to see what was going on in the car. Some of us were saying that there was some recklessness there, but that didn’t stick because we didn’t know what escalated the situation: was he really seeing a gun? We felt [Yanez] was an honest guy … and in the end, we had to go on his word, and that’s what it came down to.”
Ten days after Jeronimo Yanez was acquitted of second-degree murder for the killing of Philando Castile, the insurance company for the City of St. Anthony, Minnesota offered Philando’s family $2.995 million to avoid a federal civil rights lawsuit.
Robert Bennett, a lawyer for the Castile family, said that “no amount of money can ever replace Philando,” but that the settlement should provide some measure of comfort to those angered by his death.
“I think this is a way of stopping what could be several years of litigation traveling through the courts and exacerbating the suffering of the family and the community,” Mr. Bennett said. “And perhaps both can do now the important business of trying to heal.”
The settlement, less attorney fees of $995,000, leaves $2 million for distribution to Valerie Castile, Philando’s mother. She plans to use some of the funds to support the Philando Castile Relief Foundation, which was established to help other victims of gun violence. She is currently waiting recognition by the IRS as an official nonprofit.
Valerie has helped the family of Justine Damon, and unarmed woman who was killed by Minneapolis police in July. The attorney for Philando’s family, Robert Bennett, also represents Damond’s family.
When reaching the settlement, Bennett contacted family members to find out if they were seeking a portion of the money. Phelix H. Frazier, Sr., Philando Castile’s father, wanted $500,000. Frazier is serving a life term in federal prison for a heroin trafficking ring described by the court as “an organized and complex enterprise.”
Hennepin County District Judge Susan Robiner rejected Frazier’s bid.
Colleagues and parents remember Philando Castile as an ambitious man who served as a role model for hundreds of children before he was killed by Yanez. Philando was a cafeteria supervisor at J.J. Hill Montessori Magnet School in Saint Paul, Minn.. He knew the names of the 500 children he served every day, and according to a coworker, also knew their food allergies. St. Paul School District officials said Philando often paid for children’s lunches out of his own pocket if they couldn’t afford it.
This month, a fundraising campaign to honor Philando’s memory raised enough money to help pay off every St. Paul Public Schools students’ lunch debt for at least a year. Philando’s mother Valerie presented a $10,000 check to the school. An online fundraiser called “Philando Feeds the Children” raised more than $70,000 in Philando’s honor.
About 3 weeks after his acquittal, Jeronimo Yanez signed a separation agreement that terminated his employment with the City of St. Anthony. According to the Star Tribune, Yanez was making $72,612.80 a year. The separation agreement gave him $48,500.