Once again America is outraged, this time not over one but two police shootings in as many days, the second of which was particularly chilling because as we reported earlier today, the victim's girlfriend posted live video on the internet as it was happening. Philando Castile, 32, who was shot by a police officer after a traffic stop on Wednesday. Castile’s girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, videotaped the minutes immediately following his shooting and posted it on Facebook Live. Castile, who was driving, was shot with Reynolds and her 4-year-old daughter in the car. The graphic video showed blood oozing through Castile's shirt as he appeared to lose consciousness.
In the video Reynolds posted to Facebook the shooting, she said her boyfriend had just been pulled over and explained he had a gun he was licensed to carry. "He was trying to get out his ID and his wallet out of his pocket," Reynolds said. "He let the officer know that he had a firearm and that he was reaching for his wallet, and the officer just shot him in his arm." Police said a handgun was recovered at the scene.
"Fuck," a distraught man is heard screaming in the video. "I told him not to reach for it."
The shooting was the second-high profile killing of a black man by police in Minnesota in seven months. Two Minneapolis police officers in November shot and killed 24-year-old Jamar Clark in a struggle that broke out when they were called to assist an ambulance crew that was helping Clark's girlfriend.
Diamond Reynolds, girlfriend of Philando Castile, spoke at a conference on Thursday morning when she expressed her anger at the conduct of the police, and called on Governor Mark Dayton to get more involved with police officers, “who have mental problems.”
"When they’re coming out here to serve and protect, they’re not here to serve and protect, because they’re damaged from all the past and previous people that they killed,” she said.
Reynolds gave details of the on Wednesday night encounter with police that led to Castile's death. After pulling the couple over for “allegedly what was supposed to be a broken taillight”, the police officer asked the couple to put their hands in the air.
“My boyfriend carries all his information in a thick wallet in his right side back pocket,” Reynolds explained. “As he’s reaching for his back pocket wallet he lets the officer know, ‘Officer, I have a firearm on me.’ I begin to yell, ‘But he’s licensed to carry.’ ” After that, the officer began to shoot, saying “Don’t move”, Reynolds detailed. “It’s either you want my hands in the air, or you want my information.”
Reynolds' four year-old daughter was in the backseat at the time. “He killed him in front of us for no reason.” she cried. “Without this little angel by my side, I would never have been able to make it through this.” The mother described her late boyfriend and “best friend” as quiet, laidback and loving. “Nothing within his body said intimidation, nothing within his body language said, shoot me.” “He did not do nothing but what the police officer asked of us,” she said.
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The shooting prompted Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton to call on the U.S. Department of Justice to begin an investigation. “This kind of behavior is unacceptable,” Dayton said, adding that a state investigation was already under way.
Castile’s was killed within a day of the shooting of 37-year-old Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Sterling was killed during an altercation with two white police officers. As Reuters reports, graphic video of that incident triggered protests and an outcry on social media.
In a Facebook post on Thursday, President Barack Obama said he and wife Michelle shared the "anger, frustration and grief" many Americans feel. "All Americans should be deeply troubled by the fatal 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."
As we noted earlier, the use of force by police against African-Americans in cities from Ferguson, Missouri, to Baltimore and New York has sparked periodic and sometimes violent protests in the past two years, and has spawned the Black Lives Matter movement. Anger has intensified when the officers involved in such incidents have been acquitted or not charged at all.
In Reynolds' video shown above, a police officer outside the car is seen pointing a gun. Reynolds described what was going on, sometimes speaking calmly to the police officer, sometimes with her voice rising as she feared Castile was dying. Reynolds said Castile, 32, was shot after police pulled their car over, citing a broken tail light. "Nothing within his body language said 'Kill me, I want to be dead,'" she said on Thursday.
Dozens of protesters gathered at the governor's mansion in St. Paul, about 10 miles (15 km) southeast of the scene of the incident, where the governor spoke at a news conference with Reynolds and civil rights activists. As Reynolds spoke, people shouted "murder," and called for the arrest of the police officer involved.
As Reuters reports, the St. Anthony Police Department said only that an unidentified black man was wounded during a traffic stop in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, on Wednesday evening. He was taken to a hospital, where he later died. The ethnicity of the police officers involved was not clear. Attempts to reach the police department for further comment were unsuccessful.
Reynolds and her daughter were treated like criminals after the incident, Levy-Pounds said. “What this signifies to us is that black lives don’t really matter in the state of Minnesota.” She said later that local and federal authorities had a pattern of failing to hold officers accountable. "I don't have faith in the system because of all of the injustices and the systemic pattern of failing to hold officers accountable when they kill civilians," Levy-Pounds told Reuters.
"Loss of faith" in the system appears to be a popular refrain in recent months.
The Justice Department said it was assessing the Minneapolis area incident but did not say if it would start a formal investigation. The department has opened an investigation into the Baton Rouge shooting.
Castile's mother, Valerie Castile, described her son as a "laid back" but industrious man who worked as a school cafeteria supervisor and enjoyed playing video games. He had a permit to carry a concealed weapon, she told CNN. St. Paul Public Schools said in a statement Castile had worked for the district since 2002, and colleagues were mourning a cheerful "team player who maintained great relationships with staff and students."
Reynolds said police had not even tried to check if her boyfriend was alive after they shot him, and it had taken at least 15 minutes for paramedics to arrive. "Not one shot, not two, shots, not three shots, but five shots," she said at the news conference. "They did not check for a pulse at the scene of the crime."
That however contradicts a video posted later showing paramedics giving CPR after the shooting. By then, naturally, it was too late.
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Meanwhile, as we predicted, the demonstrations over the deaths of Castile, Sterling and other black men killed by police are now planned for St. Paul, New York, Chicago and several smaller cities on Thursday evening, according to organizers posting on social media.
Other rallies, including one in Atlanta, were planned for Friday. Protests as far away as London were being discussed on Twitter for the weekend.
Unfortunately, we believe that the current wave of anti-police sentiment will sublimate into a surge in social violence across the US, especially among blacks who target police, and sadly culminate with deadly consequences for all involved.