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5 Years After Philando Castile's Death, His Mother Continues Fight For Families Impacted By Deadly Police Shootings

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Philando Castile's mother cried out for real change Tuesday, on the fifth anniversary of his death.

It's now been five years since a now-former police officer shot and killed Philando during a traffic stop in Falcon Heights. His girlfriend live-streamed the aftermath of the shooting on Facebook. A jury acquitted Jeronimo Yanez of manslaughter. He claimed he thought Philando was reaching for a gun, and that's why he fired.

Valerie Castile says it feels like it was just yesterday that she lost her only son.

"You will see tears running down my eyes," Valerie said. "You know, today's hard for me."

The frustration and hurt in her voice was evident as she spoke to a crowd gathered outside the governor's mansion in St. Paul during a rally in her son's honor Tuesday.

"[Yanez] shot my son five times! Tore his body up! Tore his heart up! Those bullets ricocheted through my baby's body and hit every organ!"

She says her son was doing the right thing by telling Yanez he had a license to carry, and his weapon was in the car.

"A casual conversation. It went from zero to a murder, and nobody paid a penalty," Valerie said.

Valerie Castile
Valerie Castile (credit: CBS)

Philando was shot and killed within seconds of talking to the officer.

"I just can't believe that it has been this long and not too much has changed," she said.

Valerie says the worst part of losing her son during a traffic stop is that it continues to happen, five years later.

"This place has seen countless high-profile murders by our police departments," she said. "We had some cases that drew national attention."

Valerie has joined other families who have lost loved ones during officer-involved shootings, all who are in the fight for justice.

"We have been communicating with the Department of Justice to see if there is some type of way that these cases will be re-opened, because those were murders," she said.

Police reform is also important to this mother.

Philando Castile
Philando Castile at J.J. Hill Montessori Magnet School (credit: CBS)

"I would like to see police have their own insurance. I would like to see police police the neighborhoods that they live in," Valerie said.

She also wants qualified immunity -- which protects officers from being sued -- done away with, as well as an end to pre-textual traffic stops. Johnathon McClellan, president of the Minnesota Justice Coalition, touched on Philando's dozens of encounters with police during Tuesday's rally.

"Philando Castile was pulled over by police 52 times," McClellan said. "I also keep thinking about when Valerie Castile said she thinks her son was just Black in the wrong place."

On this day, Valerie will focus on the stories about her son that make her proud.

"A young man graduated from [Central High School] and he went back to [J.J. Hill Montessori School, where Philando worked] to say thank you to Philando for teaching him how to read," Valerie said.

And celebrate the accomplishments of his friends that did not let his death stop their growth.

Valerie has donated tens of thousands of dollars to the Hallie Q. Brown Food Shelf and to Central High School for tutoring students. She is also providing affordable internet for 250 families in Philando's name.

A candlelight vigil held Tuesday night near where Philando was killed included a groundbreaking for a peace garden in his name.

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