By Frederick H. Lowe
Police have shot and killed at least 175 black men so far this year, but it’s probably safe to say that none of them have been remembered like Philando Castile, who was gunned down by a cop last July in Falcon Heights, Minn.
In most deadly police shootings involving a black man, tearful well-wishers place a framed photograph of the victim, flowers, toys and balloons on the site where he died. Well-wishers also attend a church service to honor the victim. Some speakers angrily vow some type of action. There also are street demonstrations–some violent, others silent–before the victim’s name fades from memory.
The friends and high school classmates of Castile, however,
are honoring him in a more enduring way. They have established and funded a college scholarship in his name and Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton wants a new $12 million investment in law enforcement training named the “Philando Castile Law Enforcement Training Fund.”
Gov. Dayton made his recommendation in a July 6, 2017, letter to the Peace Officer Standards and Training Board (POST).
“Philando Castile’s life was tragically cut short one year ago today,” Gov. Dayton wrote. “I believe it is imperative that the leaders in our state’s ever- more-diverse communities in our law enforcement organizations commit—or recommit—themselves to making changes together that will lead toward better relationships among law enforcement officers and members of those communities. One important step toward that goal was the legislature’s bi-partisan appreciation of $12 million for additional peace officer training, to be administered by the POST board.”
Earlier, the Governor’s Council on Law Enforcement and Community Relations, which is comprised of community leaders, law enforcement officer and state lawmakers, made the same recommendation.
Jeronimo Yanez, a police officer with the St. Anthony, Minn., police department, which patrols Falcon Heights, shot to death Castile during a traffic stop on July 6, 2016. Castile was a cafeteria worker employed by St. Paul, Minn., Public School District.
Castile told Yanez that he was a registered gun owner and was carrying a weapon before Yanez killed him. A majority white jury acquitted Yanez of one count of second-degree manslaughter and two counts of dangerous discharge of a firearm on June 16, 2017. The same day the St. Anthony police department fired Yanez. The city also agreed to pay Valerie Castile, Philando’s mother, a $3 million financial settlement.
Yanez left the department on Monday after receiving a $48,500 separation package from the Village of St. Anthony.
Gov. Dayton was stunned by Castile’s killing. He said after the deadly shooting Castile would still be alive if he were white.
Minnesota Public Radio reported that alumni from St. Paul Central High School, where Castile graduated in 2001, and others concerned about the circumstances surrounding his death awarded a $5,000 Philando Castile Memorial Scholarship to Marques Watson-Taylor, who graduated from Central High School this year. He was awarded the scholarship in May.
Watson-Taylor will attend St. Paul College for two years where he will study mechanical engineering. He will then transfer to a four-year college.
The Philando Castile Memorial Scholarship is hoping to raise $100,000 to endow the fund. So far, it has raised more than $50,000.