A college professor who raised $200,000 in the name of Philando Castile following his 2016 death at the hands of a St. Anthony police officer during a traffic stop was accused of improperly spending the bulk of the money raised.
Attorney General Keith Ellison announced a settlement in the case this week.
Pamela Fergus, who at the time was a faculty member at Metro State University and Inver Hills Community College, was vaunted in local media for the launch of a non-profit called “Philando Feeds The Children.”
Fergus began the project as part of her Introduction to Diversity and Ethics in Psychology course and required her students to participate in a semester-long service-learning project.
Fergus vowed the money raised through the non-profit would be donated to pay off the lunch debts of students at St. Paul Public Schools, where Castile had worked.
However, in June 2021 Ellison’s office filed an enforcement action against Fergus claiming she could only account for the proper dispersal of $80,000 of the funds raised, leaving $120,000 unaccounted for.
Fergus had originally written three checks to St. Paul Public Schools totaling just over $80,000 for the purpose of helping relieve lunch debts for local elementary school students.
But Fergus continued to collect donations through the online fundraising site following the end of the semester, Ellison’s enforcement action claimed.
The Attorney General’s Office began investigating the fund following a complaint from Castile’s mother, Valerie Castile, who expressed concern that Fergus may have diverted funds raised in her son’s name for an improper purpose.
Ellison claimed Fergus rebuffed numerous attempts to work constructively with his office to account for the money before his office resorted to the enforcement action.
This week Ellison said his office reached a settlement agreement with Fergus that outlines repayment of $120,000 to the state through a series of scheduled payments.
Philando Castile was killed on July 6, 2016, by former St. Anthony police officer Jeronimo Yanez during a traffic stop in the city of Falcon Heights, Minnesota. At the time, Falcon Heights contracted police services from the city of St. Anthony.
During the stop, Castile began to tell officer Yanez that he was in possession of a firearm, and Yanez told him not to pull it out as he reached for his own weapon. Within seconds, Yanez fired several shots into the vehicle toward Castile killing him.
The immediate aftermath of the killing was livestreamed by Castile’s girlfriend who was in the car with him along with her young daughter. The video quickly went viral.
Yanez was charged with manslaughter in the case but was eventually acquitted by a jury in June 2017.
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