ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Family and friends of Philando Castile on Thursday marked the one-year anniversary of his fatal shooting during a routine traffic stop, organizing vigils and celebrations and pushing to name a new police training fund in his memory.
Castile, a 32-year-old school cafeteria worker, was shot to death by St. Anthony police Officer Jeronimo Yanez last July 6, seconds after informing Yanez that he was carrying a gun. Yanez was acquitted of manslaughter last month after testifying that Castile ignored his commands not to pull out the gun.
It was the second, high-profile fatal shooting of a black man by Minnesota police officers in less than a year, exacerbating divides between law enforcement and the black community. It followed the November 2015 death of 24-year-old Jamar Clark, who was shot and killed by Minneapolis police officers after what onlookers described as a struggle. The officers involved in that shooting were not charged.
Castile’s mother, uncle and other family members gathered with Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton at the Capitol Thursday as they encouraged the state’s police training board to name the recently created $12 million training fund after Castile. His family members sounded both somber about his death and hopeful that it could be the last such high-profile incident.
“This is not about my son anymore,” said Valerie Castile, his mother. “This is about the next generation of children.”
Minnesota’s Legislature set aside $12 million this year to help better train police officers in diverse communities, though it’s up to the state’s Peace Officer Standards and Training Board to formally name that fund. The specifics of the training would be also be worked out by the board itself, in conjunction with individual departments. Castile’s family will have a say because Dayton appointed Clarence Castile, Philando Castile’s uncle, to the 15-member board.
Dayton, who drew criticism last year for quickly suggesting Castile’s race was a primary factor in his death, called it among the most traumatic events he has dealt with in his nearly seven years in office.
“I believe this is a very positive step forward to begin healing,” Dayton said Thursday. “We have a responsibility, all of us who are in public service, to bring Minnesotans together.”
Castile’s family members planned to gather Thursday evening in Falcon Heights, the suburb where he was shot, for what’s billed as a day of love and healing. It includes a candlelight vigil near the shooting scene. The family also plans a lantern release Friday night.
Castile’s girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, is hosting an event Thursday afternoon in St. Paul. Reynolds and her then-4-year-old daughter were in the car with Castile when he was shot.
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