The video of Philando Castile in his final moments, blood-soaked and gasping for breath with a St. Anthony police officer’s gun trained on him, has been viewed more than 5 million times on Facebook and sparked grief, outrage and unrest across the country.
His mother hasn’t seen it.
“I want to remember him when I gave him a kiss and he walked out the door,” Valerie Castile said in an interview Tuesday. “I didn’t want to see him in agony and bleeding like that.”
Castile’s mother and sister opened up about their shock and grief since the 32-year-old school food services supervisor’s violent death following a traffic stop in Falcon Heights last Wednesday.
As more information emerges, including police audio in which an officer said Castile looked like a robbery suspect “because of the wide-set nose,” she has no doubt that her son was racially profiled.
She’s not surprised that he was stopped, but she can’t understand why he died. When he was a teen, she had “the talk” with him — about what to do if he’s ever pulled over or stopped by a police officer.
“I want this locked in your head,” she said she told him. “I told him to comply. That’s the key word. And I thought my child was safe. Whenever you get stopped by police, you do everything they ask you to do. Don’t give ’em no lip, don’t talk back. Just say ‘Yes, sir. No, sir.’ ”
Castile was shot and killed minutes after officers Jeronimo Yanez and Joseph Kauser pulled him over as a possible suspect in a recent robbery. In a video streamed on Facebook immediately after the shooting, his girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, said Castile notified the officer that he was armed and had a permit to carry a gun.
“I told him not to reach for it! I told him to get his hand open!” Yanez screamed on the video as Castile, shot, gasped for air, quickly losing consciousness.
“You told him to get his ID, sir, his driver’s license,” Reynolds calmly replied.
Castile got his permit to carry in 2015, his sister, Allysza Castile said. The two were instructed in a class to say they were carrying a gun if they were ever pulled over.
Records show Philando Castile had been pulled over at least 52 times and given 86 violations.
“The numbers speak for themselves,” Valerie Castile said, referring to her belief that her son was racially profiled numerous times.
Philando Castile’s death and that of Alton Sterling, a black man in Louisiana who was also shot by police, led to angry protests nationwide. In St. Paul, protesters shut down Interstate 94 for several hours last week; officers used pepper spray and smoke grenades to disperse the crowds. Police arrested more than 100 people, 46 of whom were charged with gross misdemeanors.
Castile will be mourned Thursday in a public funeral at the Cathedral of St. Paul. His mother called on those grieving to remain peaceful.
“I would hope everyone would respect our service and his homecoming,” she said in an interview. “And we do not need any protest. We don’t need anybody up there starting trouble or anything like that.”
The family’s acting attorney, Glenda Hatchett, said at a news conference that she has met with investigators from the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA), which is leading the investigation. Hatchett, an Atlanta-based lawyer and former judge known for her long-running TV show, said she would assemble “the best possible team” to secure justice for Castile. She intends to ask Attorney General Loretta Lynch to appoint a special prosecutor to look into the shooting. She vowed to sue anyone responsible for Castile’s death.
“I will see you in court,” Hatchett said. “Trust me and believe me, we will be well-prepared.”
Shortly after the news conference, Valerie Castile received a call from President Obama. They talked for about three minutes, and he offered condolences from himself and First Lady Michelle Obama, according to Hatchett’s spokeswoman, Tenisha Bell.
Valerie Castile spoke out for two reasons, she said at the news conference: to ensure everyone knows who her son was, and to “make sure this doesn’t happen to another mother.”
“I used to look at the TV and see parents under the same circumstances and say, ‘Wow, I hope that would never happen to me,’ ” she said of her son’s death. “Now I have a voice and I have to share that voice so you know exactly what happened.”