On July 6, 2016, Philando Castile was shot and killed by a police officer. He was a cafeteria supervisor at J.J. Hill Montessori School in St. Paul. He was only 32 years old.
In a live-stream video taken by Mr. Castile’s girlfriend, who was sitting beside him, she says they were pulled over for a broken taillight. She says several times in the video that Mr. Castile was shot for no reason, and that 4 bullets were fired.
On the video Mr. Castile’s girlfriend says that Mr. Castile was reaching into his pocket to get his wallet because the officer asked for his driver’s license, and that before doing so, he had let the St. Anthony officer know he was legally carrying a firearm.
“Officers need to be held accountable when they cross the constitutional line. There is no question that shooting a law-abiding, compliant motorist during a routine traffic stop violates the U.S. Constitution and the laws of the State of Minnesota. The shooting of Philando Castile was an inexcusable and entirely preventable tragedy. Without accountability, tragedies like this will continue to happen. We cannot allow that to happen. There must be accountability,” said attorney Eric Hageman.
The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is investigating, but Nekima Levy-Pounds, president of the Minneapolis NAACP chapter, is calling for an independent investigation of the shooting. We agree.
According to the StarTribune, Mr. Castile’s cousin, Antonio Johnson, said Mr. Castile was “a black individual driving in Falcon Heights who was immediately criminally profiled and he lost his life over it tonight.” Mr. Johnson also said that Mr. Castile had “graduated with honors from St. Paul Central High School, where he was a straight-A student.”
When police use excessive force, there may be claims against the officers involved and the city.
Attorney Eric Hageman represented a man in a police excessive-force lawsuit against the City of Minneapolis and former Minneapolis police officer Blayne Lehner. Luis Garcia, who was a passenger in a vehicle stopped by the police, was handcuffed and detained without cause and placed in the rear of Officer Lehner’s squad car. At the time, Mr. Garcia was 18 years old, with no criminal record. He weighed 120 pounds. While Garcia was handcuffed behind his back in the rear of the squad, Lehner kicked him in the face with enough force that Garcia was knocked unconscious. Lehner’s kick also broke Mr. Garcia’s jaw and nose and knocked out his two front teeth.
Eric argued that the assault Officer Lehner committed on Luis Garcia was a predictable consequence of a police department that repeatedly rewarded Lehner for his “aggressive” approach to policing and merely slapped him on the wrist (if it did anything at all) for multiple proven instances in which he used the very force he used against Mr. Garcia (i.e., kicking suspects in the head or face).
After we filed suit in an effort to hold the City and the police accountable, in June of 2016, the City Council agreed to pay $360,000 for its liability in the case. Mr. Garcia is separately resolving the claims against Lehner.