MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Community groups rallied together Monday afternoon to deliver a petition with over 7,000 signatures to Ramsey County Attorney John Choi.
Members of Neighborhoods Organizing for Change, the Minneapolis NAACP and the Minnesota ACLU are calling on Choi to appoint an independent prosecutor in the Philando Castile case. They brought the petition to Choi’s office in St. Paul and attempted to speak with him. He would not come downstairs.
On Friday, Choi announced that he would add Don Lewis as an outside prosecutor to his team, but said the case would remain under his supervision and in his office.
“Unfortunately, Don Lewis has a track record of doing the bidding of law enforcement and government agencies,” said Nekima Levy-Pounds, the president of the Minneapolis NAACP. “We want an independent special investigation to bring about more trust in the justice system, which right now is at an all-time low.”
Castile’s uncle, Clarence Castile, says the family was hoping Choi would take their wishes into consideration.
“Our first thoughts were to have a special prosecutor that’s not biased and out of state and has no connection to Ramsey County or the state of Minnesota,” he said.
While Choi did not speak with the group on Monday, those behind the petition say they won’t stop because they don’t believe the county attorney can be fair and impartial.
Criminal attorney Joe Tamburino says county attorney’s decision to bring on a special prosecutor was a mistake. He added that Choi was elected to make tough decisions on charging people.
“Mr. Choi, it seems, is trying to have it both ways,” Tamburino said. “He wants his office to have control over this, but yet he’s bringing somebody else in, as he calls, a special prosecutor. That’s making these other groups upset, because, if you’re going to do a special prosecutor, then do it – give the case to someone else.”
A spokesperson in Choi’s office released a statement Monday, saying the county attorney is very limited in what he can say while the Castile case is under investigation.
Castile was fatally shot on July 6 during a traffic stop in Falcon Heights, a suburb of St. Paul. The aftermath was live-streamed on Facebook, sparking protests in Minnesota and across the nation.
Officer Jeronimo Yanez, of the St. Anthony Police Department, is on paid administrative leave.