Falcon Heights shooting Facebook Live video of Philando Castile death sparks uproar
Published 7:12 pm Thursday, July 7, 2016
Staff and Wire Reports
FALCON HEIGHTS, Minn. — A woman who watched as a police officer fatally shot her boyfriend during a traffic stop streamed the gruesome aftermath of the slaying live on Facebook, telling a worldwide audience that her companion had been shot “for no apparent reason” while reaching for his wallet.
Within hours, the Minnesota governor was pressing for the Justice Department to open its second investigation of the week into the death of a black man at the hands of police.
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You can see a replay of the Philando Castile shooting Facebook Live video here but be warned: it is graphic.
“Nobody should be shot and killed in Minnesota for a tail light being out of function,” Democrat Mark Dayton said. “Would this have happened if those passengers would have been white? I don’t think it would have.”
It was the second fatal police shooting in as many days. A black 37-year-old man was killed Tuesday by officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Alton Sterling’s death was caught on video.
The latest death happened late Wednesday in the St. Paul suburb of Falcon Heights, a mostly white community of 5,000 people that is also home to Minnesota’s annual state fair and part of the massive University of Minnesota campus.
In the video, Diamond Reynolds describes being pulled over for a “busted tail light” and says her boyfriend had told the officer he was carrying a gun for which he was licensed.
As word of the shooting spread, relatives of the man joined scores of people who gathered at the scene and outside the hospital where he died. They identified him as Philando Castile of St. Paul, a well-liked 32-year-old cafeteria supervisor at a Montessori school.
Reynolds said Thursday that he was killed even though he complied with the officer’s instructions. She told reporters that Castile did “nothing but what the police officer asked of us, which was to put your hands in the air and get your license and registration.”
The Department of Justice announced that it would monitor the investigation by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. The governor said he and other state officials would seek more direct involvement.
Speaking to CNN, Castile’s mother said that she suspected she would never learn the whole truth about her son’s death.
“I think he was just black in the wrong place,” Valerie Castile said Thursday, adding that she had stressed to her children that they must do what authorities tell them to do to survive.
“I always told them, whatever you do when you get stopped by police, comply, comply, comply.”
Police did not release any details about the officer except to say he had been placed on paid administrative leave. Reynolds described him as Asian.
In his first public reaction to the shootings, President Barack Obama said it is clear the slayings were not isolated incidents.
The deaths 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,” Obama wrote in a Facebook post.
On Wednesday, the Justice Department launched a civil rights investigation into Sterling’s shooting, which took place after he scuffled with two white police officers outside a convenience store.
In Minnesota, relatives were outraged that Castile was not tended to after he was shot. Reynolds said it took about 15 minutes for paramedics to arrive.
William Moulder, a police consultant and longtime former police chief in Des Moines, Iowa, said all officers carry first-aid supplies in their cars and are instructed to start rendering aid as soon as it’s clear there’s no threat.
The Facebook footage shows Castile lying motionless in the car for several minutes, his shirt covered in blood, while Reynolds speaks calmly to the camera.
“That’s time to start mitigating the damage,” Moulder said.
Late Wednesday, protesters moved to the governor’s mansion in nearby St. Paul, where around 200 people chanted and demanded action from Dayton, a Democrat. About 50 protesters stayed through the night.
The video posted Wednesday night on Facebook Live shows the woman in a car next to a bloodied man slumped in a seat. A clearly distraught person who appears to be a police officer stands at the car’s window, telling the woman to keep her hands where they are and intermittently swearing.
Castile was driving the car, with Reynolds riding beside him. But because of the way the video was recorded or the way Facebook posted it, some versions of the footage were reversed, making it appear that Castile was in the right seat and his girlfriend seated on the left.
Because of its small size, Falcon Heights is served primarily by the nearby St. Anthony Police Department. Interim Police Chief Jon Mangseth said he was aware of the Facebook video but did not comment on it.
Authorities had little else to say publicly. The commissioner of the state Department of Public Safety would not discuss the traffic stop, any video footage or whether Castile was legally carrying a firearm.
But Ramona Dohman promised an “expedient” investigation and said the department would identify the officer after an interview scheduled for Thursday.
Facebook Live is a form of internet broadcasting that can be initiated in seconds from the Facebook app. In a few taps, users can send live video straight from their smartphones to friends or to a wider audience.
On the video, the officer tells her to keep her hands up and says: “I told him not to reach for it. I told him to get his hand out.”
“You shot four bullets into him, sir. He was just getting his license and registration, sir,” the woman responds.
The video goes on to show the woman exiting the car and being handcuffed. A young girl can be seen and is heard saying at one point, “I’m scared, Mommy.”
The woman describes being put in the back seat of the police car and says, “The police just shot my boyfriend for no apparent reason.”
It was unclear whether other footage exists. Kim Brazil, the St. Anthony Police Department’s office manager, confirmed that their squad cars are equipped with dashboard cameras but said officers do not have body cameras.
A handgun was recovered from the scene, police said.
Castile had worked for the St. Paul school district since he was 19. A principal described him as “a warm person and a gentle spirit” who loved his job and never missed work.
Katherine Holmquist-Burks hired Castile three years ago to supervise the cafeteria at J.J. Hill Montessori, a St. Paul magnet school with 530 students and 85 staff members.
“He stood out because he was happy, friendly and related to people well,” she said.
After learning of his death, she went to the governor’s mansion, in the same neighborhood as the school, to take part in a vigil.
“I want his name respected,” she said.
Minnesota court records online show Castile had some misdemeanor violations, mainly related to driving.
Associated Press writers Gretchen Ehlke in Milwaukee, Carla K. Johnson and Sarah Rankin in Chicago and researcher Rhonda Shafner in New York contributed to this report.