Family of Philando Castile, Whose Fatal Police Shooting Sparked National Protests, Says Goodbye at Funeral
"All of the children knew his name. He knew all of the kids' names," Philando's mother, Valerie, told PEOPLE
The family of Philando Castile said goodbye on Thursday to their brother, son, boyfriend and nephew who was killed last week in a police shooting outside St. Paul, Minnesota that sparked nationwide outrage and protests.
More than 1,500 people attended the public funeral, held at the Cathedral of St. Paul, according to the Star Tribune. It was followed by a private burial ceremony and public reception at J.J. Hill Montessori Magnet School, where Philando, 32, worked as a cafeteria manager and where he has been remembered as a bright presence.
“He smiled at everybody who came in the building,” Joan Edman, a paraprofessional at J.J. Hill previously told the Star Tribune. “I remember him saying, ‘I just want everybody here to be happy.’ He wanted the cafeteria to be a happy place. It was a huge goal, and not an easy one, and he did it.”
One parent remembered Philando, to the paper, as “kind of like Mr. Rogers with dreadlocks.”
Philando’s giving spirit permeated his funeral reception, where anonymously donated food was to be served to by his colleagues in the St. Paul public school system, according to the Star Tribune.
“My nephew was a giver, and he fed children all the time,” Philando’s uncle, Clarence Castile, said earlier this week, according to Minnesota Public Radio. “Part of his lifestyle was feeding people. And so our repass meal is going to be about the same thing.”
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Among the attendees Thursday were Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton and Lt. Gov. Tina Smith, among other lawmakers, according to the Star Tribune. Many dressed in black or white. Philando’s 4-year-old daughter, who witnessed his shooting death, was there with her mom.
Officials have said Philando was shot and killed in Falcon Heights on July 6, by St. Anthony officer Jeronimo Yanez, during a traffic stop. The immediate aftermath of Philando’s shooting, with him bleeding in the car, was livestreamed to Facebook by fiancée Diamond Reynolds.
Police “asked [Philando] for license and registration. He told him that it was in his wallet, but he had a pistol on him because he’s licensed to carry,” Reynolds said in her video. “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.”
Yanez’ attorney told the Star Tribune his client was reacting to Philando: “This has nothing to do with race, and everything to do with the presence of a gun. Deadly force would not have been used if not for the presence of a gun.”
The state is now investigating, and Yanez and his partner have been placed on leave, as is standard.
A schools spokeswoman told the Star Tribune the reception was primarily a time for friends and family to gather, reflect on and celebrate Philando’s life.
“He was loved by all the children,” Philando’s mom, Valerie Castile, told PEOPLE last week. “All of the children knew his name. He knew all of the kids’ names.”
“Go to work and come home: that was his ritual,” Valerie said. “He was no gangbanger. He wasn’t a thug. he wasn’t into criminal activity of course because he would not have had the job that he had. If he was a criminal, the state of Minnesota would not have given him a license to carry.”
Speaking to the assembled inside the cathedral on Thursday, Philando’s uncle, Clarence Castile, said his nephew “was a young, loving, handsome, giving, caring individual,” according to the Star Tribune.
“I’m just amazed at how many people care about Philando and care about what happened to him,” he said.
• With reporting by CHRISTINE PELISEK