'I'm Going To Fight': Friend Of Philando Castile On Life After Traffic Stop Shooting
It’s been a week since Minnesota police officer Jeronimo Yanez was acquitted in the shooting death of 32-year-old Philando Castile during a traffic stop. The aftermath of the shooting was livestreamed on Facebook by Castile’s girlfriend.
This week, investigators released dashcam video from the officer’s squad car, showing the events leading up to the shooting. Here & Now‘s Robin Young talks with John Thompson, a community activist who was a co-worker and friend of Castile.
On seeing the footage of Castile’s death
“I saw Philando on the Fourth of July, and then I saw him on Facebook Live on the sixth of July. And I didn’t know it was him. I mean, I’m getting ready for work in the morning and I see his name across the screen of the television, and then I see the images that Diamond [Reynolds]… because I didn’t even pay attention to whose Facebook feed it was, I just saw it and it was like numbing to me. But when I saw his name I screamed, ‘Oh my god, that’s Phil.’ Oh wow.”
On whether he has sympathy for the officer
“No. I definitely don’t have any sympathy for the a scared police officer, because you can’t be a scared Marine. You can’t be a scared U.S. serviceman, and you actually asked to be an officer. You swore under oath that you would uphold the law. So, no.”
On who we lost in Philando Castile
“Man, I’m glad you got to that question. On the Fourth of July, I saw Philando — I was actually happy. It’s the Fourth of July, so I’m trying to crash somebody’s barbecue, and I see Philando, and I’m like, ‘You know what, I haven’t seen him because it’s summer. What are you doing this summer?’ ‘Well I’m working at [Chelsea Heights Elementary].’ ‘Man what the heck are you doing working?’ You know, in the position Philando has with the district, they get the summer off with pay! So I’m thinking, ‘What the heck are you doing?’ And the type of person that Philando is, he said to me, ‘Man I love the kids.’ I’m just in conversation with my friend, and I have no idea that this is the last conversation I would ever have.”
“You know what I said to Phil? I said, ‘Phil, man, get out of here man. Those kids man, man they give us hell. So get out of here with that ‘I love the kids’ mess.’ And he said, ‘JT, man, I love everybody.’ And I went on with my day and we celebrated. I didn’t think those would be the last words that I would ever hear Philando say to me was, ‘I love everybody.’ He said, ‘I love everybody,’ and he meant it. He meant it. He loved everybody. Everybody. So to take my friend from me like that, he loved everybody. You know, he used to go into his pocket — and if kids couldn’t afford lunch, he would pay for their lunch out of his own pocket. And that was against school policy. And I mean kids can’t afford lunch right now. They miss Mr. Phil at that school. They miss him. I miss my friend. And then to let this officer get off with murder, like he murdered my friend, and they dragged him out of his car like a dog. And we did nothing. (cries) I’m sorry if I’m messing up your interview, I’m sorry, but I miss my friend.”
On his efforts since Castile’s death
“I’ve actually found out that, in the midst of all of this stuff that, a lot of times, I’ve been like an advocate for change here in Minnesota. So a lotta times I go to these legislative hearings, I go to these city council meetings, I go to these listening sessions, and I was just trying to find out like, who the hell is responsible for letting things like this happen? So I’ve told them, from this point on, I’ll cry. I’ll cry. I’ll be sad. But from this point on I’ll be a regular fixture there. I started the Fight for Justice LLC. I started — we were part of the Philando Castile Relief Foundation. So we’ll be there at the capitol, lobbying for allies to help us fight these bills and these laws that help officers use the catchphrase, ‘I’m in fear for my life.’
“But I know that we can’t allow this to keep happening because I mean, this can’t be the narrative for African-American men this summer. What they showed me this summer, I mean, just a few weeks — last week what they showed me, that it’s OK to shoot an African-American man as long as you have that catchphrase, ‘I’m in fear for my life,’ you will get off. That’s what they showed me. So I’m going to fight. And from here on like I’ll cry, I’ll be sad, but from this point on, for the rest of my life I’ve dedicated my life to fighting for Philando. I speak Philando, I eat Philando, I breathe Philando out of my breath. From this point on… on my watch, there will never be another Philando here in Minnesota.”
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