Philando Castile Family Reaches $3M Settlement with City of St. Anthony, MN

Valerie Castile, mother of Philando Castile (photo via eurweb.com)

by Amy Forliti via thegrio.com

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The mother of Philando Castile, the black motorist killed by a Minnesota police officer last July, has reached a nearly $3 million settlement with the city that employed the officer, avoiding a federal wrongful death lawsuit that attorneys said could have taken years to resolve. The settlement to be paid to Valerie Castile, who is the family’s trustee, was announced Monday and comes less than two weeks after officer Jeronimo Yanez was acquitted of manslaughter and other charges connected to her son’s death.

Castile, a 32-year-old elementary school cafeteria worker, was shot five times by Yanez during a traffic stop after Castile told the officer he was armed. Castile had a permit for his gun. The shooting gained widespread attention after Castile’s girlfriend, who was in the car with her then-4-year-old daughter, livestreamed its gruesome aftermath on Facebook. The acquittal of Yanez, who is Latino, prompted days of protests, including one in St. Paul that shut down Interstate 94 for hours and ended with 18 arrests.

The $2.995 million settlement for Valerie Castile will be paid by the League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust, which holds the insurance policy for the city of St. Anthony. The plan for distribution of funds requires approval by a state court, which could take several weeks. Robert Bennett, who along with attorney Glenda Hatchett is representing Valerie Castile, said a decision was made to move expeditiously rather than have the case drawn out in federal court, a process that would “exacerbate and reopen terrible wounds.” The settlement will also allow the family, the city and community to work toward healing, Bennett said.

“No amount of money could ever replace Philando,” a joint statement from the attorneys and city of St. Anthony said. “With resolution of the claims the family will continue to deal with their loss through the important work of the Philando Castile Relief Foundation.” Bennett said the foundation’s mission is to provide financial support, grief counseling, scholarships and other help to individuals and families affected by gun violence and police violence.

Bennett said Castile’s girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, is not part of the settlement. Reynolds has also hired an attorney, but it’s not clear if she is still planning a lawsuit or has any standing for a federal claim. Reynolds’ attorney did not return messages Monday.

The settlement happened faster than others stemming from the killings of black men by police officers elsewhere. Last week, a $1.5 million settlement was reached in the case of Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old who was killed by a white officer in Ferguson, Missouri. That settlement came nearly three years after the death of Brown, whose parents sued the city.

Bennett said his decades-long relationship with Joe Flynn, the attorney who represented St. Anthony in Castile’s case, helped bring a quick resolution. He also said the city of St. Anthony has a commitment to make positive changes to their police department. The city is undergoing a voluntary review by the Department of Justice’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, with the goal of improving trust between the police department and the communities it serves.

To read full article, go to: Philando Castile family reaches $3M settlement in death | theGrio

Lezley McSpadden, Michael Brown’s Mother, Earns High School Diploma Alongside College-Bound Daughter Daysa Brown

Michael Brown’s mother and sister, Lesley McSpadden (l) and Daysa Brown (r), graduate high school on same day (photo via tuko.co.ke)

via eurweb.com

Lezley McSpadden, the mother of Michael Brown, recently walked across the stage in Missouri to receive her high school diploma.What’s also interesting is that McSpadden earned her diploma alongside her daughter, Daysa Brown, thanks to the local school district’s adult high school education program, which allowed her to attend classes on weekday afternoons.

McSpadden dropped out of Ladue Horton Watkins High School after giving birth to her son Michael in her junior year. After creating the We Love Our Sons & Daughters Foundation, she decided to go back and get her diploma. The initiative, made in her late son’s honor, focuses on advocating for justice and advancing education.

Specifically, McSpadden got encouragement to go back and finish high school from Art McCoy, a Missouri school district superintendent after he learned she never completed school.  McSpadden worked on getting her diploma at Jennings High School in Jennings, Missouri along with her daughter, Deja Brown. However, their schedules didn’t overlap. “She would just go to afternoon class, so we never really interacted at school or in class or anything,” Brown told the St. Louis American. “But I did help her on homework. Like, math, she was like, ‘I’m stuck! I don’t understand this!’ so I would try to help her the best I could, because it was geometry, which I took already.”

The mother-daughter duo crossed the stage on the same day at Chaifetz Arena on May 26. It’s also worth noting that McSpadden, who presented her daughter’s diploma, is the first graduate of the district’s adult program.

Deja Brown, who will attend Tennessee State University in the fall, told the St.Louis American that she’s proud of herself and her mother for finishing school. “I know it’s something that she’s wanted to do,” she said. “She’s done it and she’s worked really hard, and she’s so excited and I’m excited for her!”

Meanwhile, Benjamin Crump, the family lawyer, told the Post-Dispatch that the ceremony was especially meaningful considering the trauma the family has experienced. He said McSpadden told him she “has a purpose now to try to uphold the legacy of her son.”

Michael Brown was 18 years old when he was shot six times by white officer Darren Wilson in August 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. His killing sparked days of protest in the predominantly black city. The unrest garnered national attention and Black Lives Matter protests spread throughout the country.

To read full article, go to: Lezley McSpadden, Michael Brown’s Mom, Just Got Her High School Diploma

Judge Rules NYPD Must Disclose Surveillance of Black Lives Matter Protesters Under Freedom of Information Law

NYPD authorities “make blanket assertions and fail to particularize or distinguish their surveillance or undercover techniques and records,” Mendez wrote. (SAM COSTANZA/FOR NEW YORK DAILY NEWS)

article by Stephen Rex Brown via nydailynews.com

The New York Police Department must disclose documents and video revealing surveillance of Black Lives Matter protestors at Grand Central Terminal in 2014 and 2015, a judge has ruled. The case, brought by protester James Logue, challenged the NYPD’s denial of a Freedom of Information Law request for information on its monitoring of rallies following the police killings of Eric Garner in Staten Island and Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo.

Logue decided to file the request after suspecting that police were “compiling dossiers” on individuals at the peaceful protest, his attorney David Thompson said. The NYPD had argued that revealing its tactics would interfere with law enforcement work. But Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Manuel Mendez ruled the NYPD could not decline to comply with the law on such “overly broad” grounds.

NYPD authorities “make blanket assertions and fail to particularize or distinguish their surveillance or undercover techniques and records,” Mendez wrote, adding that the department had failed to show why the use of redactions could not protect ongoing investigative work.

The judge noted that the MTA and Metro-North, which also monitored the rallies, responded to Logue’s FOIL request with some paperwork. Mendez ordered the NYPD to comply with Logue’s request within 30 days. He signed the ruling last Monday, though it was made public Wednesday.

To read more, go to: NYPD must disclose surveillance of Black Lives Matter protesters – NY Daily News

Quiet Billionaire Robert Smith Makes Some Noise with $20 Million Gift to National African American Museum

In 2013, when the founders of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture were seeking donors, people directed them to one man: Robert F. Smith.

“We kept wondering, ‘Who is this Robert Smith?’ ” said Adrienne Brooks, director of development for the museum. Meeting Smith became a priority, said Lonnie G. Bunch III, the museum’s founding director. “We wanted to meet him. And soon,” Bunch said, laughing.

Soon many more people will know Robert Smith by name as the museum celebrates its grand opening this weekend. The private-equity financier was the museum’s second-biggest private donor, with a $20 million gift. Oprah Winfrey was No. 1, with $21 million.

Smith has built a fortune that’s made him one of the nation’s richest men — worth $2.5 billion, according to Forbes — but until now he has kept his work and philanthropy relatively quiet.

Even the website of his company, Vista Equity Partners, does not have a picture of him. Better, he had thought, that investors and executives know him first by his abilities. If they saw only the caramel skin of an African American, he might lose out on opportunities.

As Vista’s chairman and chief executive, he is in the business of buying, growing and selling off software companies. Vista’s portfolio has 35 companies with $26 billion in assets under management. He is the majority shareholder of Vista’s management company.

Beyond Wall Street and Silicon Valley, Smith long enjoyed moving in relative obscurity. That changed last fall when Forbes magazine put him on its cover, with an article for which he declined to be interviewed.

Now in an exclusive interview with The Washington Post, he’s ready to talk about his life’s work and the powerful social force that has pulled him out of the shadows: the racial tension escalating across the nation. Smith said he grew fearful that the very fabric of the country that allowed his parents to earn doctorate degrees and him to build a successful business is vulnerable.

Watching TV news, he saw the unrest in Ferguson, Mo., after the 2014 fatal shooting of an unarmed black youth, Michael Brown, by police. Last year he watched the turmoil following Freddie Gray’s funeral in Baltimore. Across the land, he feared, a sense of opportunity is giving way to rising hopelessness and despair.

“The vision I was sold as a kid is unraveling. I see the little tears in the fabric of society every day. This cannot be,” Smith said in the interview.

His philanthropic efforts go back years. Through the Fund II Foundation, of which he is the founding president, he has supported nonprofit groups that focus on African American culture, human rights, music education and the environment.

It was time to emerge, he thought, and do more. “We have to do something,” he said. “We have to do something for our community.”

To read full article, go to: https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/who-is-this-robert-smith-a-quiet-billionaire-makes-some-noise-with-20-million-gift-to-the-african-american-museum/2016/09/23/547da3a8-6fd0-11e6-8365-b19e428a975e_story.html

Ferguson Hires Delrish Moss as Police Chief; Moss Promises more Diversity on Force

In this Aug. 9, 2006 photo, Miami police officer Delrish Moss, helps David Jenkins into the van taking the family to Disney in Miami. (Al Diaz/The Miami Herald via AP)

In this Aug. 9, 2006 photo, Miami police officer Delrish Moss, helps David Jenkins into the van taking the family to Disney in Miami. (Al Diaz/The Miami Herald via AP)

article by Maria Sudekum via thegrio.com

FERGUSON, Mo. (AP) — A veteran Miami police officer with two decades of experience dealing with the media and community leaders will take over as police chief in Ferguson, hoping to help the St. Louis suburb heal as it rebounds after the fatal 2014 police shooting of Michael Brown.

U.S. Justice Department Sues Ferguson, Mo., to Force Police Reform

U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch ce Department (Photo via newsweek.com)

U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch (Photo via newsweek.com)

article by Stephan A. Crockett, Jr. via theroot.com

U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced Wednesday that the Department of Justice has filed a federal lawsuit against Ferguson, Mo., after the City Council voted Tuesday to change the terms of a deal that would have brought sweeping changes to the city’s embattled Police Department.

“The residents of Ferguson have waited nearly a year for their city to adopt an agreement that would protect their rights and keep them safe,” Lynch said, according to ABC News. “They have waited nearly a year for their Police Department to accept rules that would ensure their constitutional rights. … They have waited decades for justice. They should not be forced to wait any longer.”

The Justice Department launched an investigation into the Ferguson Police Department last year after the shooting of unarmed teen Michael Brown by Police Officer Darren Wilson in August 2014. Wilson was not charged in the shooting, but the Justice Department investigation found “systemic and systematic racial bias within the force’s policing practices,” ABC reports.

The findings of the investigation were announced last year, and the city of Ferguson and the Justice Department began negotiations that ABC notes lasted 26 weeks, seeking an agreement that would address the Justice Department’s findings.

In January it was announced that the two sides had reached a tentative agreement that was set to include a complete overhaul of basic policing practices, including “how officers conduct stops, searches and arrests, use their firearms and respond to demonstrations,” among other significant changes, the Associated Press reports.

ABC notes that Ferguson leaders, however, had always balked at the tentative agreement, which they estimated would cost the city $3.7 million during the first year alone.

Superintendent Tiffany Anderson Has Figured Out How to Make School Work for Low-Income Kids in Jennings, MO

— School districts don’t usually operate homeless shelters for their students. Nor do they often run food banks or have a system in place to provide whatever clothes kids need. Few offer regular access to pediatricians and mental health counselors, or make washers and dryers available to families desperate to get clean.

But the Jennings School District — serving about 3,000 students in a low-income, predominantly African-American jurisdiction just north of St. Louis — does all of these things and more. When Superintendent Tiffany Anderson arrived here 3 1/2 years ago, she was determined to clear the barriers that so often keep poor kids from learning. And her approach has helped fuel a dramatic turnaround in Jennings, which has long been among the lowest-performing school districts in Missouri.

“Schools can do so much to really impact poverty,” Anderson said. “Some people think if you do all this other stuff, it takes away from focusing on instruction, when really it ensures that you can take kids further academically.”

Public education has long felt like a small and fruitless weapon against this town’s generational poverty. But that’s starting to change. Academic achievement, attendance and high school graduation rates have improved since Anderson’s arrival, and, this month, state officials announced that as a result of the improvements, Jennings had reached full accreditation for the first time in more than a decade.

Gwen McDile, a homeless 17-year-old in Jennings, missed so much school this fall — nearly one day in three — that it seemed she would be unlikely to graduate in June. But then she was invited to move into Hope House, a shelter the school system recently opened to give students like her a stable place to live.

She arrived a few days after Thanksgiving. The 3,000-square-foot house had a private bedroom for Gwen, who loves writing and poetry; a living room with a plush sofa she could sink into; and — perhaps most importantly — a full pantry.

She’s no longer hungry. She has been making it to class. She believes she will graduate on time.

“I’ve eaten more in the last two weeks than I’ve eaten in the last two years,” Gwen said on a recent afternoon, after arriving home from school and digging into a piece of caramel chocolate. “I’m truly blessed to be in the situation I’m in right now.” Continue reading