Protesters deliver petition calling for special prosecutor in Castile case

Published 10:23 am Tuesday, August 2, 2016

By Riham Feshir FM

ST. PAUL — Demonstrators gathered at Ramsey County Attorney’s Office on Monday to demand special prosecutor in the Philando Castile case.

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A Minneapolis grassroots organization, Neighborhoods Organizing for Change, has collected over 7,000 signatures asking for an independent review of the fatal police shooting of Castile.

Tony Williams with Neighborhoods Organizing for Change laid out protesters’ requests, saying Monday’s demonstration was the first of many steps.

“We’re really interested in seeing more comprehensive reform and change in our criminal justice system more broadly,” Williams said. “We know especially in Minnesota, there are more racial equity gaps in our criminal justice system than in almost any other part of the country.”

As about two dozen demonstrators crammed into the lobby of the Ramsey County Attorney’s office, Criminal Division chief Richard Dusterhoft accepted the petitions on behalf of John Choi, the county attorney.

A leader of the group said it was disrespectful of Choi not to accept the petitions himself. Choi said last week he doesn’t plan to appoint an independent special prosecutor.

Choi is “very limited” in what he can say regarding an active investigation, a spokesperson for the county attorney said in a statement.

“[Choi] does not want to do anything that might jeopardize the integrity of his decisions in the Castile case,” the statement read. “Therefore, meeting with any public group that is ultimately demanding a prosecution or no prosecution at all when the investigation is not complete would not serve the investigative process well.”

Choi has hired an outside attorney, Don Lewis, to work with his team on the case.

Public officials have previously called on Lewis, a former Hamline University dean, to investigate high-profile cases.

However, activists say Lewis’ track record points to him siding with the government.

“Ramsey County Attorney John Choi already made a high level of skepticism by appointing Don Lewis to help him out,” said Jason Sole, the chair of the criminal justice reform committee for the Minneapolis NAACP. “That’s already showing the level of shadiness that we’re not comfortable with.”

Clarence Castile, Philando Castile’s uncle, joined the protesters Monday to deliver the petition. He said the family wanted an outside prosecutor from the start and that Choi never reached out to them.

“I believe my sister has an appointment to talk with Don Lewis and get her own personal opinion,” he said.