On Thursday, the nation watched as Philando Castile laid slumped down and bloodied in the driver’s seat of his car, gasping for breath in the final moments of his life. A 32-year-old cafeteria supervisor from St. Paul, Minnesota, Castile had been shot four times by a police officer during a traffic stop over an alleged broken taillight. Castile’s girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, captured the aftermath of the event via Facebook livestream while her 4-year-old daughter sat quietly in the back seat.
In the hours following Castile’s death, President Barack Obama and Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton both spoke passionately about the strife that continues to exist between the African-American community and the country’s police force. “Would this have happened if the driver were white, if the passengers were white?” Dayton asked. “I don’t think it would have.”
In the wake of the shooting, those who knew Castile have described the man as a dedicated worker who cared passionately for his students at J.J. Hill Montessori Magnet School, memorizing some 500 children’s names.
“He remembered their names. He remembered who couldn’t have milk. He knew what they could have to eat and what they couldn’t,” Joan Edman, a recently retired paraprofessional at the school, told Time magazine on Thursday. “This was a real guy. He made a real contribution. Yes, black lives matter. But this man mattered.”
Castile had worked at the nutrition services department of the Saint Paul public schools system since he was 19-years-old, and was recently promoted to the level of supervisor. Following his death, students, parents and co-workers made signs further highlighting Castile’s contributions to the school.
“A cafeteria supervisor is a powerful job, a caring and generous job. Phil was a caring, soft-spoken man,” one sign read. “Phil took time to help a kid with a disability get from breakfast to class regularly,” read another.