America is watching the Twin Cities and the aftermath of Philando Castile's death at the hands of St. Anthony police. Castile's family has retained someone used to the spotlight to handle its legal business.
Castile's mother, Valerie Castile, and Glenda Hatchett, star of the TV courtroom reality show Judge Hatchett, announced Tuesday that the family will file a civil lawsuit in response to officer Jeronimo Yanaz fatally shooting Castile during a traffic stop last week.
Over the weekend, Castile's family retained Hatchett, who has eight years of experience behind the bench and in front of the lens on her daytime show. The former TV personality now runs an Atlanta-based firm specializing in wrongful death suits.
Hiring Hatchett is a strong indication that the Castile family isn't just waiting for the criminal justice system to play out. "There will be a lawsuit," Hatchett confirmed, declining to offer details on who would be named in the civil action.
Beyond litigating the events that led up to Castile's shooting in Falcon Heights last week, Hatchett says she hopes the case will expose ways in which police departments across the country can improve their hiring and training practices, as well as how they respond to citizen complaints.
In a chilling Facebook video taken by Castile's girlfriend Diamond Reynolds immediately after he was shot, Reynolds claims Castile informed the officers he had a gun and a permit to carry before reaching for his ID. He was shot after following the cop's orders to provide his ID, she states. An officer is heard in a panicked voice saying, “I told him not to reach for it! I told him to keep his hand open!”
“He didn't deserve to die like that,” Valerie Castile told reporters, her voice slowly raising. “You guys wanna ask questions, I have one question myself. In what country does being honest and telling the truth get you killed?”
Hatchett declined to talk specifics of the forthcoming lawsuit. She called Castile's death a “horrible, senseless tragedy” and said she will ask for an independent prosecutor. Initial reports stated Castile was stopped for a broken taillight. However, this week several media outlets posted police scanner clips from anonymous sources indicating officers believed Castile matched the description of a robbery suspect. Hatchett said they have not yet confirmed the authenticity of those recordings.
A funeral for Castile is scheduled for Thursday, two days before what would've been the St. Paul man's 33rd birthday.
The Thursday service begins at noon at the Cathedral of St. Paul, with a viewing an hour beforehand.
His family might also honor his birthday by passing out ice cream and cupcakes during Rondo Days, a decades-old community festival in St. Paul, Valerie Castile said.
Explaining why she chose the cathedral as the appropriate setting for her son's services, Castile said: “My son is a king. He is also a martyr."