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Celebrations, vigil mark year since Philando Castile death


    Gov. Mark Dayton, left, embraces Valerie Castile after announcing the creation of a $12 million state police training fund one year after Castile’s son Philando Castile was fatally shot by St. Anthony police Officer Jeronimo Yanez during a routine traffic stop, today.

ST. PAUL, Minn. >> Family and friends of Philando Castile today 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. Castile had a gun permit. 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 and worsened a divide 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 shooting drew immediate attention because his girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, livestreamed the aftermath on Facebook. She was in the car with her then-4-year-old daughter.

Castile’s mother, uncle and other family members gathered with Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton at the Capitol today 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 such shootings can be prevented in the future.

“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 today. “We have a responsibility, all of us who are in public service, to bring Minnesotans together.”

Castile’s family members planned to gather this evening in Falcon Heights, the suburb where he was shot, for what was billed as a day of love and healing. It includes a candlelight vigil near the shooting scene. The family also planned a lantern release Friday night.

Reynolds was also hosting a memorial event this afternoon in a St. Paul park.

“It’s been a nightmare waking up every day without him being there, having to explain to my daughter that he’s not coming back, but he lives in her heart,” she said in an interview with The Associated Press before the event. “He’s in heaven watching over her.”

She said her daughter, who could be seen consoling Reynolds in squad car video after the shooting, is “doing great. She’s a kid. She has a lot of energy.”

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