Philando Castile's family has reached a nearly $3 million settlement with the city of St. Anthony for his death at the hands of one of its police officers.
The city does not admit any liability in Castile's death last year, but the settlement likely speaks to the city's fears about its chances at trial, said Andrew Noel, an attorney for Castile's mother, Valerie Castile.
Noel said the substantial amount of money — among the highest settlement amounts in Minnesota for such cases — likely is a nod toward the risk St. Anthony saw in going through a civil trial. "It's an actions-speak-louder-than-words kind of thing," he said.
The settlement was reached without the filing of a lawsuit in federal or state court, and it comes a little over a week after officer Jeronimo Yanez was acquitted of manslaughter and reckless discharge of a firearm for fatally shooting Castile during a July 6 traffic stop. While a Ramsey County jury acquitted Yanez, the law allows the family to seek civil recourse. After the verdict, the city announced it would offer Yanez a voluntary separation agreement "to help him transition to another career other than being a St. Anthony officer."
Attorneys for Valerie Castile and the city issued a joint statement Monday morning announcing the $2.995 million settlement. "The parties moved expeditiously to resolve potential civil claims resulting from this tragedy in order to allow the process of healing to move forward for the Castile family, for the people of St. Anthony, and for all those impacted by the death of Philando Castile throughout the United States," the statement said.
The settlement will be paid by the League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust at no cost to St. Anthony taxpayers, the statement said. City Manager Mark Casey did not return a message seeking comment.
The settlement amount is the maximum insurance coverage for the city, said Noel and co-counsel Robert Bennett.
Noel said that Valerie Castile will use some of the funds to support the Philando Castile Relief Foundation. About a third of the settlement will go toward paying her attorneys, including Glenda Hatchett of Atlanta. "This foundation was established after the murder of Philando to help other victims of gun violence and add some relief as you grieve," according to the foundation's Facebook page.
"I think this … will not only help with the work of the foundation, but help prevent situations like this from happening again," Noel said. "I know that [Valerie Castile] is committed and that she will follow through."
Bennett said the next steps include tracking down several of Philando Castile's half-siblings to determine whether they want to make any claims on the money. Valerie Castile will craft a distribution plan that will be filed in Hennepin County civil court, he said. A hearing likely will be held to review the plan, which must be approved by a judge. Bennett said it could take four to six weeks before a hearing is held.
Valerie Castile was not interested in publicly addressing the settlement, Bennett said.
"This and last week have been very troubling" to her, he said.
Michelle Gross, president of Communities United Against Police Brutality, said that although additional information about the shooting might have been divulged in a civil trial, the settlement saves the family from further trauma.
"It was good that they spared the family another trip to court and a lengthy trial," said Gross, who sat with Valerie Castile through much of Yanez's trial.
Noel said that attorneys for the Castile family began talks with the League before Yanez went on trial May 30 and that the settlement was finalized after dashcam footage of the shooting was made public last week following Yanez's acquittal.
Noel said that he and Bennett hadn't seen the footage until then. "It's a critical piece ..." Noel said. "It's terrible to watch, but obviously, it's something that needs to be seen and processed ... ."
Ramsey County jurors heard five days of testimony before acquitting Yanez, 29, on June 16 of second-degree manslaughter and two charges of reckless discharge of a firearm. They deliberated for five days, breaking their deadlock about 2 p.m. on a Friday.
Yanez testified that he pulled over Castile, 32, for a nonworking brake light and in order to check whether he was the suspect in a recent armed robbery. (He wasn't.)
Yanez said on the stand that he fired his gun after Castile volunteered that he had a gun in his possession and continued to move his arm despite orders not to reach for it. Castile had a permit to carry the gun, which was later found in his right front shorts pocket.
Castile's girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, was in the car and livestreamed the aftermath on Facebook. The video garnered millions of views across the world. Reynolds' daughter, then 4, was also in the car at the time.
Reynolds' civil rights attorney, Larry Rogers, has said he and Reynolds will discuss possible civil action; he did not return a message seeking comment Monday.