Gathering held to remember Philando Castile

- Passionate, humble, intelligent and loving—words used by a co-worker to describe Philando Castile.

The kind words were shared along with happy memories at JJ Hill Montessori Thursday, following Castile’s funeral at the Cathedral in St. Paul.

Castile worked in food service at JJ Hill, where co-workers and parents say he knew all 523 students by name and food allergy.

“This line right here—say it was full of kids. He would be like, 'You can’t have that. It has whole wheat in it. You can’t have that, it has lactose in it,'” said John Thompson who works food service for St. Paul Public Schools. “He wouldn’t have to look at a list. He just knew.”

32-year-old Castile was shot and killed during a traffic stop in Falcon Heights on July 6th.  His girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, recorded the aftermath live on her cell phone.

“There was a video of it,” said second grader David Heil.  “It’s how he got murdered.”

Until now, David’s mother says he had never uttered the word “murder”. She and her husband had to explain to their four children—all students at JJ Hill—why the man they know as “Mr. Phil” wouldn’t be coming back to school this year.

“We just said, Mr. Phil died and it happened when the police stopped his car and the policeman was scared and so they shot Mr. Phil,” said Sheila Heil.

Heil says it’s been difficult to explain death, but also difficult to rationalize how police could kill their friend but still be considered a trusted group of people.

“We really don’t want to change that perception of the police—that  these are the people who keep you safe and if you’re in trouble that’s who you go to,” she said. “We have been very careful to say this is one police officer who made a mistake and did something wrong.”

Governor Mark Dayton also paid a visit to the life celebration at the school Thursday. He said he met with Castile’s mother and  uncle.

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