Outrage erupted Friday over a flier’s claim that a handgun raffle is raising money for the family of the St. Anthony police officer who killed Philando Castile.
Turns out the poster’s message wasn’t true, according to the Latino police organization that is holding its annual holiday raffle to raise money for community initiatives — not for the family of officer Jeronimo Yanez, who fatally shot Castile during a July 6 traffic stop.
“We work so hard to bridge communities … and this really sets us back,” St. Paul Police Cmdr. John Lazoya, a spokesman for the Minnesota Chapter of the National Latino Peace Officers Association, said Friday.
The Latino police organization chapter sponsors a yearly raffle to raise money for a variety of initiatives, such as providing clothing, furniture and other necessities for Latino and immigrant families, scholarships for Latinos who want to become police officers and Christmas presents for children who otherwise wouldn’t have them.
The raffle, geared primarily for law enforcement officers, sells chances to win a $400 to $500 certificate for a gun, including those used for hunting and skeet shooting.
“The raffle is not to raise money for officer Yanez,” Lazoya said.
The flier, titled “BACK THE BLUE LINE,” says the “MN Latino Police Officer Association” is selling $5 tickets for a chance to win a Glock handgun, with proceeds going to Yanez’s family. It points out that Yanez is the St. Anthony police officer “involved in the incident” with Castile.
Two people are listed as contacts for the raffle tickets. The Star Tribune was unable to reach them.
Lazoya said his organization didn’t authorize the flier and is trying to contact the people who created it and have it removed from anywhere it might be posted. The Latino organization has not produced any fliers about the raffle, and if it did, they would include the logos for the National Latino Peace Officers Association and the local chapter, along with the signature of the organization’s president, he said.
Lazoya first learned about the poster on Friday afternoon when he got a call from a Twin Cities black activist who was outraged that the raffle was linked to Yanez and the fatal shooting of Castile. “I went crazy when I saw it,” Lazoya said.
Yanez killed Castile, 32, during a traffic stop in Falcon Heights. Castile’s girlfriend was in the passenger seat and live-streamed the aftermath on Facebook. The video immediately drew national attention and the shooting sparked weeks of protest in the Twin Cities.
The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension investigated the shooting and turned the evidence over to Ramsey County Attorney John Choi’s office in late September.
Tyrone Terrill, president of the African American Leadership Council, said Friday that he saw a photo of the poster Friday afternoon. “I was outraged,” he said. “You have Philando Castile’s name on there and it’s just disrespectful to Philando’s memory, to his family, to the black community. … It’s insensitive.”
Terrill said he doesn’t object to the organization or any other group raising money for Yanez and his family. And he doesn’t object to the Latino police organization selling chances to win a gun, with proceeds going to community initiatives.
“Just don’t put Castile’s name on it,” he said. “Don’t connect the murder of Philando Castile to a fundraiser.”
Terrill said he immediately called Lazoya, who assured him that he didn’t know anything about the poster and clarified what the raffle is really for.
“[Lazoya] denounced the poster and said it shouldn’t have happened,” Terrill said.