Hundreds mourn Philando Castile amid US police abuse debate

Well over 1,000 people gathered to mourn Castile, a school cafeteria worker who became the 123rd black person to be shot by police in the United States.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

The casket for Philando Castile is carried from the Cathedral of St Paul after a funeral service in St Paul, Minnesota, US, July 14, 2016. Castile was fatally shot by police July 6, 2016.

Updated Jul 15, 2016

Philando Castile, the 32-year-old black man shot by police in the US state of Minnesota last week, has been laid to rest after a his funeral procession drew more than 1,500 mourners.

Thursday’s procession comes a week after Castile was shot by Officer Jeronimo Yanez during a routine traffic stop in the St Paul suburb of Falcon Heights.

Mourners, many clad in all white, held placards reading United for Philando. Among those in attendance were Minnesota lawmakers Governor Mark Dayton, Senators Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken and Congressman Keith Ellison.

Castile’s girlfriend Diamond Reynold’s four-year-old daughter, who was in the backseat of the vehicle at the time of his killing, attended alongside her mother.

Reynolds recorded the moments after Castile was shot on her mobile phone.

Family members comfort Diamond Reynolds as the casket of Philando Castile is taken into the Cathedral of St Paul in St Paul, Minnesota, US, July 14, 2016.

The public service which took place at St Paul Cathedral lasted 90 minutes. His uncle Clarence Castile asked loved ones to “stay strong for Phil”.

The eulogy by the reverend touched on racial profiling, drawing parallels to Mississippi in the 50s when civil rights activists were persecuted.

The funeral procession for Philando Castile travels from the Brooks funeral home to the St Paul Cathedral in St Paul, Minnesota, US. July 14, 2016.

'Racially motivated'

In the days following Castile's death, Dayton was joined by tens of thousands of others throughout the country in saying that Castile had been targeted because of his race.

Speaking at a July 7 press conference, Dayton said the killing of Castile, a school cafeteria supervisor, is an example of prevailing racism in the United States.

"Would this have happened if the driver or passenger had been white? I don't think it would have [...] I think all of us are forced to confront that this kind of racism exists, and it's incumbent upon all of us to vow that we're going to do whatever we can to see that it doesn’t continue to happen."

Police unions in Minnesota demanded Dayton retract his statement.

A visible trend

The last several years have seen repeated claims that US police are disproportionately targeting and killing black men. 

Castile’s killing on July 6 came a day after Alton Sterling, a 37-year-old black man, was tackled to the ground and shot to death by police in the southern state of Louisiana. 

According to the Washington Post, Castile was the 123rd black person to be killed by police in the US in 2016. The same report states as yet 128 black people have been shot by the police as yet this year.

Castile himself had been stopped by police more than 50 times since 2002.

Steven Daniels, the reverend at a local church, raised the issue of police profiling in his eulogy of Castile.

“What had he done? He wasn’t resisting, he wasn’t running. He was respected by many. But most of all, he respected the law.”

Also on Thursday, Castile's family made public a copy of the gun permit he was reaching for at the time of his death.

Yanez, the police officer who shot Castile, claimed he had fired only after Castile showed him the gun itself.

In a mobile phone video captured immediately after the shooting, Reynolds could be heard saying Castile had been reaching for his gun licence, which he had disclosed to the two police officers on duty, when he was fatally shot by Yanez.

"The officer said don't move. As he was putting his hands back up, the officer shot him in the arm four or five times," Reynolds said in the video that has been viewed millions of times.

Yanez and his partner, Joseph Kauser, have been placed on leave as the state continues its investigation into Castile’s death, which had been declared a homicide by the local medical examiner's office.

TRTWorld and agencies