Philando Castile Shooting in Minnesota Leads Governor to Seek U.S. Investigation

Richard Perez-Pena and Jonah Engel Bromwich, New York Times, July 7, 2016

Minnesota’s governor called on Thursday for a federal investigation into the shooting of a black man by a police officer during a traffic stop near St. Paul, after millions of people watched the bloody, dying man in a grisly video recorded by his girlfriend and streamed live moments after the shooting.

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The graphic video from Minnesota showed Philando Castile, 32, who had been shot several times, slumping against the woman who was recording the scene. As she did so, her 4-year-old daughter sat in the back seat and an officer stood just outside the driver’s side window, still aiming his gun at the mortally wounded man at point-blank range.

The video is all the more shocking for the calm, clear narration of the woman, Diamond Reynolds, who can be heard saying that Mr. Castile had done nothing wrong, and the fact that she streamed it live on Facebook. On the video, Ms. Reynolds gives her account of what happened, saying again and again that Mr. Castile was just reaching for his driver’s license and registration–as the officer had requested–when the officer opened fire.

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President Obama posted a message on Facebook on Thursday, saying that “all Americans should be deeply troubled” by the Baton Rouge and Falcon Heights shootings. “We’ve seen such tragedies far too many times, and our hearts go out to the families and communities who’ve suffered such a painful loss,” he said.

“What’s clear is that these fatal shootings are not isolated incidents,” Mr. Obama said. “They are symptomatic of the broader challenges within our criminal justice system, the racial disparities that appear across the system year after year, and the resulting lack of trust that exists between law enforcement and too many of the communities they serve.”

Hillary Clinton wrote on Twitter: “America woke up to yet another tragedy of a life cut down too soon. Black Lives Matter.”

As the video circulated widely on social media, hundreds of protesters gathered outside the governor’s mansion in St. Paul during the night and Thursday morning, demanding accountability for the officers involved. {snip}

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Speaking to reporters on Thursday morning, Ms. Reynolds said that Mr. Castile, a cafeteria supervisor for the St. Paul Public Schools, had just come from having his hair done for his birthday when they were pulled over on Larpenteur Avenue, a major east-west street.

Falcon Heights is a small, predominantly white and middle-class city of about 5,500 residents, bordering St. Paul on the northwest. The two officers who stopped them were from the nearby city of St. Anthony, which provides police services under contract to Falcon Heights, and one officer approached Mr. Castile, who was driving, and said he had a broken taillight, Ms. Reynolds, who is also black, said.

“He tells us to put our hands in the air, we have our hands in the air,” she said. “At the time as our hands is in the air, he asked for license and registration.

“My boyfriend carries all his information in a thick wallet in his right side back pocket. As he’s reaching for his back pocket wallet, he lets the officer know, ‘Officer, I have a firearm on me.’ I began to yell, ‘But he’s licensed to carry.’ After that, he began to take off shots–bah, bah, bah, bah, ‘Don’t move! Don’t move!’ But how can you not move when you’re asking for license and registration? It’s either you want my hands in the air or you want my identification.”

In the video, she says repeatedly that her boyfriend was shot several times while reaching for his license, and that he had told officers before the shooting that he had a gun in the car.

In the background, one of the officers can be heard shouting: “I told him not to reach for it. I told him to get his hands up.”

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[Editor’s Note: Ms. Reynolds says the officer who fired is Asian.]

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