ST. PAUL. Minn. (KMSP) - Philando Castile worked diligently for ten years, making sure students at J.J. Hill Montessori School were properly fed and went to class with lifted spirits.
From his co-workers to students to school families – everyone seemed to love him.
“It was my son today, but it could be yours tomorrow, or yours the next day, or your grandmother or your mother,” said Valerie Castile to the hundreds gathered at the vigil outside of J.J. Hill Montessori School. “This has to cease!”
32-year-old Philando Castile was Valerie’s one and only son.
“I’m hurt. I’m confused. All I want to know is why would you have to unholster your weapon for a mere traffic stop?” she said.
Her question resounded across the school courtyard and brought many to tears. The question is one no one seems to have a sensible answer for.
“He loved children. He...wasn’t able to have any of his own before his passing, but every child here at J.J. Hill was his child and I know that he loved them, I know that!” said Allysza Castile, Philando’s sister.
Philando Castile was J.J. Hill Montessori’s Cafeteria Supervisor.
Castile served in the St. Paul Public School system since he was 19, working his way up the ranks of the nutrition services department.
“He was some of everybody’s family. They killed him while he was still wearing his seatbelt,” Castile’s girlfriend reminded the crowd.
Many at the vigil held signs and hug one another over the loss of the man described as having a “calm aura.”
“He made an impact in my life because I didn’t have a father and that was my father and they took that away from me. They took something very, very special away from me, away from my family, away from everybody because if you knew him, you would love him,” cried his sister.
The students Castile were served too sad to speak to Fox 9 as they shaded in signs with markers. Their posters spoke for them.
One little girl’s poster read, “Mr. Phil gave me a hug when I was down.”
“Mr. Phil that’s how we’d refer to him at our household just out of respect,” said Charles Rafowicz, who has had two children attend the Montessori Elementary.
Philando Castile is described by Rafowicz’s son, Abraham, as a “Mr. Rogers with dread locks.”
“Very gentle, patient, kind soul I will miss giving him hugs,” nodded Rafowicz.
Angie Checco de Souza tells Fox 9 via skype Castile went above and beyond to make sure her 10-year-old son Andrew, who suffers from serious food allergies, was properly fed.
“I called him every single day for two weeks just because I was nervous and every day he was patient, kind to me, he never told me to stop calling. He just would reassure me that Andrew was fine and he was getting the food he needed each day,” said Checco de Souza.
Checco de Souza’s 10-year-old didn’t want to believe the news.
“He said this must be a bad dream, this can’t be true,” Checco de Souza said of her son Andrew.
Angie’s other two sons, Anthony and Aiden, were also stunned.
“[They told me] ‘he serves us lunch mom you should tell the police that they were wrong,’” Checco de Souza recounted.
Six-year-old Aiden was particularly shocked to learn that the man they knew as “Mr. Phil” was shot and killed by a police officer.
“He looked at his picture and he remembered Phil and said, ‘Mom can you tell the police that this is our guy who serves us lunch at J.J. Hill Montessori School?’ so we feel for his family and we pray for them.”