ST. PAUL, Minn. - The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) announced the filing of a lawsuit Thursday asking for the release of squad car video that documents the fatal shooting of Philando Castile.
The lawsuit names the City of St. Anthony Village, Minnesota’s Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) and the Minnesota Department of Public Safety as defendants. The ACLU-MN argues that the public has a right to access this footage and the Defendants’ refusal to release it stands in violation of the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act.
“Squad camera video is presumed to be public data. The video from the Castile shooting should have been released immediately. However, the ACLU-MN and others who have asked for the videos have been denied,” maintains Charles Samuelson, ACLU-MN. “It’s troubling that under the circumstances of the Castile shooting, this otherwise public data is being purposefully withheld.”
Castile was 32-years old when he fatally shot by a St. Anthony Police officer during a traffic stop on July 6. His fiance streamed the aftermath on Facebook live, putting the incident at the forefront of a national conversation.
The lawsuit cites the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act, which expressly provides that data documenting law enforcement actions to “cite, arrest, incarcerate or otherwise substantially deprive an adult individual of liberty shall be public at all times.” The ACLU says the defendants have kept this video private, claiming that it constitutes “criminal investigative data.” However, the ACLU believes that Minn. Stat. § 13.82, subd. 2 expressly states that Arrest Data is not subject to the statute governing criminal investigative data.
Even if the videos are considered criminal investigative data by the defendants, the ACLU argues that they should be released because the public benefit of disclosure outweighs any potential harm.
“Releasing the videos would not impede the Castile investigation, especially because the shooting occurred almost two months ago," stated attorney Haley Schaffer of Maslon LLP. "Squad cam video is routinely released upon request in other jurisdictions, regardless of the status of the case. The Defendants have no legal basis to withhold the release of the videos.”
The ACLU emphasizes that Philando Castile’s family is not affiliated with the case.
Meanwhile, in what his mother describes as the final leg of his journey on earth, the body of Philando Castile was transported from a St. Paul funeral home to St. Louis, Missouri.
"Today is the beginning of a tragic end," said Valerie Castile. "We’re preparing to ship my sons body back to St. Louis where he was born. I brought him here to Minnesota to better his life… but unfortunately he was murdered by St. Anthony Police and this is the last part of the ordeal."
Hundreds turned out for Castile's public funeral on July 14, but his family did not want him buried in the Twin Cities. They waited until now to ship his body back to Missouri to complete his circle of life on earth.
"I would never have peace, sighed Valerie Castile when asked if today marked some closure in the process of losing her son. "This is something that has to be done with the transition of his life to the other life.. so I feel pretty good about it because that’s where he’s supposed to be.. where he was born."