UPDATED: 2:19 p.m. ET, July 6, 2021 —
Tuesday marks five years since the world witnessed the infamous video of Philando Castile bleeding and taking his last breaths after he was shot by a police officer in Minnesota.
The 32-year-old was shot by St. Anthony police officer Jeronimo Yanez less than two minutes after being pulled over for a broken tail light on July 6, 2016. Castile’s girlfriend Diamond Reynolds and her young daughter were also in the car. Reynolds pulled out her phone and recorded on Facebook Live and the haunting images of an innocent man’s death would forever be seared into our memories.
Yanez was charged with two counts of dangerous discharge of a firearm in November 2016 but was subsequently acquitted. Castile’s family was awarded $3 million in a settlement with the city of St. Anthony.
But the memories of Philando Castile live on in a number of ways. The school cafeteria worker who was remembered as a role model for the children he served has had his legacy of giving kept alive by his mother, Valerie Castile. It has been through her work that her son’s name has not been forgotten.
1. The creation of the Philando Castile Relief Foundation
After her son’s tragic death, Valerie created the Philando Castile Relief Foundation in his memory to help other families that have been affected by gun violence. The organization provides those families with resources such as grief counseling, housing, electricity or utility bills. According to the foundation’s website, it also assists with meal preparation, financing and funerary assistance. The foundation also does work around the school lunch epidemic.
2. Bringing awareness to lunch debt
Valerie made it clear that her son, who worked as a cafeteria supervisor prior to his death, was passionate about making sure his students were fed. In May 2019, Valerie presented an $8,000 check to the Robbinsdale Cooper High School to help eliminate the debts of over 300 seniors, who would have otherwise not been able to graduate until they had paid off their remaining lunch balances. She also gave $10,000 to J.J. Hill where Castile worked.
“This is something that Philando held near and dear to his heart,” Valerie said. “He’d pay for children’s lunch 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 Minnesota Rep. Illhan Omar and Sen. Tina Smith to create legislation that would put an end to “lunch shaming.” The legislation would prohibit schools from singling out students for the inability to pay for lunch; the school would be reimbursed by the federal government for the balance. Schools would also be prohibited from publishing lists of students that cannot pay or attempting to collect their meal fees through a debt collector.
3. Created Tool Kit To Combat Police Shooting
In March 2019, Valerie teamed up with John Choi, the Ramsey County Prosecutor who charged Yanez, to create a tool kit that 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 would give that prosecutor four to six months to make a decision about whether or not to press charges. They are also required to release their report to the public and if they decide not to prosecute, they had to provide an explanation to the family. The kit is also designed to promote a connection to the community and help citizens know their rights.
Rest in Power, Philando Castile.