A mother’s pain: Valarie Castile opens up about life without her son

Valarie Castile struggles daily with the loss of her son, Philando Castile, and with the fact that the man responsible for killing him, Jeronimo Yanez, was not punished for the homicide. Photo by Harry Colbert, Jr.

The mother of Philando Castile is determined to keep a positive light on her son’s legacy

By Harry Colbert, Jr., Managing Editor

Most of us spent last week surrounded by the love of family and friends, recounting the many reasons for which we are thankful … most of us.

Valerie Castile was among family and friends, but her son … her first born … was not there. He will not be there for Christmas either. The holidays are tough on Castile. Each day can be a tough one for her. But despite the pain, she endures, trying to turn tragedy into triumph and ensuring the legacy of her son … Philando Castile … will endure far beyond the 32 years he existed on this plain.

Since the July 6, 2016 killing of Philando Castile by then St. Anthony Police Officer Jeronimo Yanez, and the June 16 manslaughter acquittal of Yanez; Valarie Castile has been hard at work evaluating the name of Philando Castile … King.

“I always called him King. He was always a king to me,” said Castile in an exclusive interview with Insight News. “I was 26-years-old when I got pregnant with King, and before that, doctors told me I couldn’t have kids. So, to have him here on earth, he was delivered to me by God.”

He was taken away in a hail of bullets. The world witnessed his last breaths.

“I have to give credit to Diamond. She was supposed to be there to show the world how wicked this system can be,” said Valarie Castile.

The Diamond Valarie Castile speaks about is Diamond Reynolds, Philando Castile’s girlfriend, who livestreamed to Facebook the immediate aftermath of Philando Castile being shot.

“I’m telling you this; that video saved that girl’s life and her baby’s life,” said Valarie Castile. “I tell you it did. He (Yanez) stuck his gun in that car and shot with no regard for human life.”

Reynolds and her 4-year-old daughter were both passengers of Philando Castile that fateful night when he was pulled over in Falcon Heights, just steps from the Minnesota State Fairgrounds … pulled over for a supposed broken taillight … pulled over for his “wide set nose” … pulled over for the 53rd time.

“All the time he was getting pulled over, I was the one getting infuriated. He was always calm. He was the one like, ‘Mom, it will be OK.’ I can only imagine that when he got pulled over (by Yanez) that he was like, ‘hey, this is the routine. I give them my ID and I go about my way.’”

Sadly, Philando Castile getting pulled over … targeted like many other Black men in America … was routine. Sadder is the reality that this time he didn’t get to go about his way. Yanez unloaded seven shots into the car, killing Philando Castile after Castile volunteered to Yanez that he was legally in possession of a firearm.

There are said to be five stages of grief – denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. During the Insight News interview, Valarie Castile floated between three of them. She is well aware that her son was taken from her, thus, she has moved past denial. Not once did she allude to any instance of bargaining. Anger? Absolutely … and rightfully so. Depression? Tears trickled down Valarie Castile’s cheeks at multiple times during the more than hour-long sit-down. Acceptance? That is a tricky one. How does one truly accept the loss of a child? Yes, she has accepted that her days will continue on with the memories of her son, but not hearing his voice … not seeing his smile … not feeling his touch. More to the point, how does one accept the fact that the person responsible for the death of a beloved son was not brought to justice?

“That trial was a sham. It was pitiful. When that jury came back not guilty I was victimized again that day,” said Valarie Castile, with a tone of both anger and sadness. “That trial was an illusion. It was strictly for show. That (Philando) was my seed … he was mine and no man had the right to take him from me.”

In accepting what has been done, Valarie Castile is working every day to exalt the legacy of Philando Castile … a beloved figure in the St. Paul Public Schools. Valarie Castile has formed the Philando Castile Relief Foundation – a foundation established to help other victims of gun violence, and to help others in need. In addition to her works, the Philando Feed Fund was established and has raised more than $80,000 to assist with providing meals to underprivileged students in the St. Paul School District. As a food services worker for the district, Philando Castile was known to come out of his own pocket to buy food for students who otherwise would have gone hungry.

Valarie Castile says she has a duty to work on Philando Castile’s behalf.

“Life is a journey, and everybody is here for a reason. We all have a destiny,” said a resolute Valarie Castile. “We all witnessed Philando’s destiny.”

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