ST. ANTHONY, Minn. (WCCO) — It’s been nearly a year of darkness and despair, but clouds are lifting over the village of St. Anthony.
For the family of Philando Castile, the surprise announcement of a civil litigation settlement is the beginning of healing their heartache.
“It avoids exacerbation of all these wounds, by the continuation of the legal process,” said Robert Bennett, one of the family’s attorneys.
Bennett and Glenda Hatchett represent the Castile family. They were set to begin a civil action against St. Anthony and its police department for liability in the July 6, 2016 traffic stop by officer Jeronimo Yanez.
A Ramsey County jury cleared Yanez of manslaughter and endangerment charges on June 16 after a three-week trial.
Much of the testimony at that criminal proceeding would have been used by plaintiffs in any state or federal civil litigation, including the damaging squad car video which shows how quickly Yanez responded to the perceived threat posed by Castile.
Yanez shot Castile five times after Castile informed him that he had a gun, which he was licensed to carry.
A civil rights action would have been both costly and time-consuming. There was always the risk of potential damages reaching millions of dollars and the case taking years to complete.
“So we made a decision to settle on this basis: It’s almost the entirety of the insurance limits available to the city of St. Anthony,” Bennett said.
The settlement pays the Castile family $2,995,000 million. That’s nearly the maximum under the city’s coverage by the League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust.
The settlement amount is entirely funded by insurance coverage — and not by St. Anthony taxpayers.
“I think it was the right thing to do,” said St. Anthony resident Greg Broburg.
It’s clear that the videos and other evidence shown at the criminal trial could possibly further erode police-community relations, leading to more protest and criticisms.
With officer Yanez no longer employed by St. Anthony police, the city can begin the work of rebuilding citizen confidence and healing a painful and sad chapter.