Philando Castile’s would have turned 33 years old Saturday, July 16. Instead, family, friends and thousands of community members attended his funeral two days before.
“It was a beautiful moment,” said Antonio Johnson on his cousin’s funeral Thursday in St. Paul, He was one of the pallbearers. “We were like brothers and best friends as well.”
He and his cousin Angelique Robinson both were in attendance to see the Lynx’ 88-70 victory over Liberty. It was the first game since the Lynx players wore T-shirts and observed a moment of silence in honor of Castile prior to last Saturday’s contest.
The gesture prompted four off-duty Minneapolis police officers to walk away from their assigned arena security roles. The police union president went on to criticize the players’ shirts as well, and dismissed the team as “a pathetic draw.”
According to the Star Tribune, the issue between the police officers and the Lynx players has been resolved, but the incident left an impression.
“When I heard about the behavior of the four off-duty officers and the statements by the racist Minneapolis Police Federation Chief Bob Kroll, not only did I [feel the] need to support the Lynx, but our entire community should stand behind the Lynx and fill this arena,” said Minneapolis NAACP President Nekima Levy-Pounds, who was among the over 8,000 people who watched Friday’s game.
Both Johnson and Robinson thanked the Lynx and the community for their support of their family since Castile was killed by St. Anthony police officer Jeronimo Yanez during a traffic stop last week.
“It was the right thing to do,” said Robinson on the Lynx. “It’s good to see the community come together. Let’s hope we can come together as a nation.”
“It was symbolic not just for Minnesota, not just for St. Paul or this area, but for this nation and the world,” added Johnson. “This tragedy has made our family stronger. This is another obstacle we will have to get through. It’s going to be tough because he [Philando] was such an amazing person, but we understand that God had a purpose and has a plan. We’re faithful. Things are going to work out, not just for us but for other individuals to come.”
The lion’s share of God-given strength, comes from his aunt, Valerie Castile, Philando’s mother, Johnson said.
“She showed me something else,” continued Johnson. “I can’t believe the strength she has been showing. It’s nothing short of amazing.”
It’s been doubly hard for Robinson, who told the MSR, “You can’t be prepared for anything like this,” she pointed out. “I come back from overseas [where she plays pro ball] and I had a cousin commit suicide.” Then the news last week of the two-year-old boy who was shot in North Minneapolis last week in a drive-by: “I’m close to both families,” said Robinson.
“It’s going to take time,” she said. “I’m just glad the [Castile] family is dealing with this the right way. I’m here to support and my condolences to all the families who lost anybody throughout the year.”
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.