"We got pulled over for a busted tail light in the back."
That's the first thing Diamond "Lavish" Reynolds says in her video depicting her boyfriend Philando Castile bleeding out in the seat next to her, shot to death by police officer Jeronimo Yanez during a traffic stop in the Twin Cities suburb of Falcon Heights, Minnesota.
In the wake of Castile's death, as well as that of Alton Sterling—another black man killed by police over a minor infraction—protestors took to the streets across the country, demanding justice, and calling for police reform. And just a few minutes away from the intersection where Castile was killed, one small business is doing its part to ensure the circumstances which allegedly lead to Castile's death don't repeat themselves for anyone else.
"We will be replacing tailight and license plate bulbs indefinitely FOR FREE," Unity Autoworks, a car repair and customization shop located in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, recently announced on their Facebook page. "A defective bulb should never be a reason to be murdered."
"We can't fix everything," Unity Autoworks co-owner Brandon Jefferson explained to local alt-weekly City Pages, "but this is one less reason for people to get pulled over."
Jefferson, who is black, told the paper that he himself had been pulled over by police for "questionable reasons," but it was Castile's shooting which prompted him to act—first at his autoshop, and most recently at a celebration in Rondo, St. Paul's historically African American neighborhood, that was largely tempered by Castile's death.
Since announcing the offer, Unity Autoworks' Facebook page has been flooded with thanks and praise. "Omg. You are awesome. I shared your post. What a practical act of social justice," one commenter wrote.
"I ran across your post today and it made me proud," another exclaimed, adding, "I live in Florida but am inspired by your community activism by way of offering to fix carlights for free. Great way to stand up and be apart of the bigger picture."
It's that sense of self-sufficient community activism which seems to energize Unity Autoworks' efforts over the past few weeks. The company has taken to ending their recent Facebook posts with the refrain, "Built IN the community, FOR the community."
While the exact circumstances leading up to Castile's death are being investigated, recently released police scanner audio indicates a broken tail light may not have been the sole reason he was pulled over in the first place. According to local NBC affiliate KARE 11, the St. Anthony Police officers who stopped Castile's car did so in part because they believed his "wide set nose" matched the description of a suspect wanted for nearby robbery.
Nevertheless, Jefferson's efforts to help his community avoid similar circumstances have already proven tremendously successful. Unity Autoworks claims to have already already replaced hundreds of bulbs—often, Jefferson speculated to City Pages, for people who simply couldn't afford the relatively simple procedure.
On Unity Autoworks' Facebook page, the company wrote: "Our goal is to have an event once a month for free bulb replacements and safety checks."
As Jefferson explained to City Pages: "I'll continue to do this until the need isn't there."