ST. PAUL, Minn. (KMSP) - The phone call came as a complete surprise to Valerie Castile. On the other end of the phone was President Barack Obama, on his way to Dallas to attend the memorial for five slain police officers.
“My heart goes out to all the officers that lost their lives,” Valerie told the president.
“I completely agree with you,” Obama responded.
“I don’t condone violence and Philando wouldn’t want that either,” Valerie told the president.
“I know he wouldn’t,” Obama said.
Valerie’s son, Philando Castile, was shot and killed during a traffic stop in Falcon Heights last Wednesday night. Officer Jeronimo Yanez of the St. Anthony Police Department, which provides service for Falcon Heights, is on paid administrative leave.
One day later, a gunman opened fire during a Black Lives Matter protest march in Dallas, killing five police officers and wounding six others.
“I hoped it would never happen to me, but it has and now I have a voice,” Valerie said Tuesday at a news conference on the State Capitol lawn. “And I have to share that voice so you all will know exactly what happened.”
The Castile family held the news conference to introduce their new attorney, former TV judge Glenda Hatchett. Hatchett, also a former chief judge in Georgia and the host of the court show “Judge Hatchett”, is now in private practice.
“With respects to the next steps in the legal action, yes we will aggressively pursue justice on his behalf. Yes, there will be a lawsuit,” Hatchett said.
Hatchett didn’t have details on the pending lawsuit, noting she’d only been retained over the weekend. But, she did attend a meeting between the Castile family and the lead Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension investigator looking into the fatal shooting.
Her only response to statements by Yanez’s attorney that the traffic stop and shooting had nothing to do with race and everything to do with the presence of a Castile’s gun, for which he had a permit to carry was, “I will see you in court.”
Hatchett noted that Castile was not a convicted felon, nor was he fleeing police. She contends he was in no way resisting or fighting the officer and that he was only complying with the request to show his driver’s license.
Hatchett also said the Facebook video that was live streamed by Castile’s girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, in the moments after the shooting is a vital element to the legal case.
Fox 9 asked Hatchett what the Facebook video offers for the case.
“Oh, it offers that he was still in his seatbelt. It does not look like he was resisting, he was slumped over and that she was compliant,” Hatchett said.
As for Reynolds, it shows “she wasn’t hysterical [and] she wasn’t jumping out of the car. She wasn’t trying to fight police. And I think it gives her a lot of credibility to her account of what happened with that video,” Hatchett said.
Hatchett said she hopes this case will be a catalyst for reforms to police training and the way they deal with African Americans. She will ask for an outside investigator and prosecutor to come in, but wasn’t sure how that could happen or who it could be.
Valerie said her son’s funeral is planned for Thursday at noon at the St. Paul Cathedral. She declined an offer from the White House to attend the memorial in Dallas, she said, because she’s too busy with funeral planning and other elements of her son’s case to make the trip.
But she had a few minutes for the surprise phone call from President Obama, after which she was visibly beaming from the conversation.
“And I hope at some point I get a chance to meet you,” He told her as they wrapped up their chat.
The shooting of Philando Castile
Philando Castile, 32, was shot and killed by a St. Anthony police officer during a traffic stop in Falcon Heights, Minnesota at approximately 9 p.m. Wednesday night, July 6. A graphic video streamed live on Facebook by Castile’s girlfriend captured the aftermath of shooting from inside the car.
Since the shooting, the Governor’s Residence has been a meeting place for protesters and a venue for impromptu news conferences with Castile’s family and community leaders.
Saturday morning, the attorney representing St. Anthony Police Officer Jeronimo Yanez in the shooting of Philando Castile told Fox 9 “race did not play a part in the use of deadly force at all.” Attorney Tom Kelly says it was the presence of a gun and the actions of Castile that led to the deadly shooting.
“Officer Yanez was reacting to the actions of the driver,” Kelly said in a phone conversation with Fox 9’s Paul Blume. “This incident had nothing to do with race. It had everything to do with the presence of a gun. Race did not play a part in the use of deadly force at all. It was the presence of a gun.”
Timeline of Philando Castile shooting
JULY 7, 10 AM - Governor: 'Justice will be served in Minnesota'
JULY 7, 9:50 PM - Police officers identified in fatal shooting of Philando Castile
JULY 8, 10:30 AM - Prosecutor considering grand jury in Philando Castile shooting
JULY 9, 8 PM - Protest shuts down Interstate 94 in St. Paul