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Family of Philando Castile Demands DOJ Investigation into His Death

Allysza Castile, the sister of Philando Castile, and their mother, Valerie, holding a photo of the slain Minnesota man. Photo by Joshua Lott for the New York Times.

Allysza Castile, the sister of Philando Castile, and their mother, Valerie, holding a photo of the slain Minnesota man. Photo by Joshua Lott for the New York Times.

The family of slain Minnesota man Philando Castile is demanding that the Dept. of Justice launch a federal investigation into shooting death.

According to the Twin Cities Pioneer Press, attorneys for the family penned a letter to the DOJ requesting an independent investigation under accusations that Castile was racially profiled. Family attorney Glenda Hatchett filed the letter to U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch stating, “we do not believe that local law enforcement authorities will provide a fair and impartial review.”

A DOJ spokesperson has since confirmed that the agency received the letter.

Thirty-two year old Castile was shot and killed by St. Anthony police officer Jeronimo Yanez during a traffic stop on July 6, 2016. The beloved elementary school cafeteria supervisor and his girlfriend were reportedly pulled over for a busted tail light. During the stop, Castile informed the officer that he was armed but had a license to carry. As he reached for his identification, Yanez fired multiple shots at point blank range into the car, killing the Minnestota man.

Castile’s girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, live-streamed the bloody aftermath of the shooting on Facebook for the world to see. The video sparked national outrage, adding fuel to the fire of a country still reeling from the death of another Black man at the hands of police; father of five Alton Sterling was shot dead by police in Baton Rouge just a day before.

“He was trying to get out his ID and his wallet out his pocket,” Reynolds explained in the video, amid audible moans from her boyfriend slowly dying in the passenger’s seat. “The officer just shot him in his arm.”

Reynold’s young daughter was also in the car at time of the fatal shooting.

“Officer Yanez’s excessive use of force and fatal shooting of Mr. Castile was unjustified and warrants criminal prosecution,” Hatchett wrote in her letter.

Despite the initial claim that Yanez stopped Castile for a broken tail light, the officer later admitted that he pulled the couple over because Castile matched the description of a robbery suspect with a “wide set nose,” Atlanta Black Star reports.

If the DOJ decides to take on the case, investigators would analyze whether Yanez purposely violated Castile’s civil rights, according to the Twin Cities Pioneer Press. But the violation is a tough one to prove and the DOJ has already had trouble bringing charges in similar cases involving high-profile police shootings.

For example, the agency declined to criminally charge Officer Darren Wilson for the death of 18-year-old Black teen Michael Brown in August 2014. According to ABS, Wilson was officially cleared of civil rights violations in the fatal shooting, in which the teen was shot at least six times.

“There is no evidence upon which prosecutors can rely to disprove Wilson’s stated subjective belief that he feared for his safety,” the DOJ report read.

In February 2015, the agency announced that “neighborhood watchman” George Zimmerman didn’t violate Trayvon Martin’s civil rights either, after he shot and killed the Black teen in Sanford, Florida.

The feds also failed to bring charges against the officers in involved in the death of Minneapolis man Jamar Clark. The shooting occurred in November of 2015 when officers were answering a domestic dispute call, ABS reports. The 24-year-old was ultimately shot in the head while handcuffed.

The Justice Department has yet to respond to the Castile family’s letter.

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