The shooting deaths of two black men within days by law enforcement officers are the latest in a spate of such cases that have made headlines nationwide in recent months.
FALCON HEIGHTS, Minn. — A Minnesota officer fatally shot a man in a car with a woman and a child, an official said, and authorities are looking into whether the aftermath was livestreamed in a widely shared Facebook video, which shows a woman in a vehicle with a man whose shirt appears to be soaked in blood telling the camera “police just shot my boyfriend for no apparent reason.”
St. Anthony Police interim police chief Jon Mangseth said the incident began when an officer pulled over a vehicle around 9 p.m. Wednesday in Falcon Heights, a St. Paul suburb that Mangseth’s department serves. Mangseth said he did not have details about the reason for the traffic stop, but that at some point shots were fired. The man was struck but no one else was injured, he said.
As word of the shooting and video spread, relatives of the man joined scores of people who gathered at the scene of the shooting and outside the hospital where the man died and identified him as Philando Castile of St. Paul, a 32-year-old cafeteria supervisor at a Montessori school.
Speaking to CNN early Thursday, Castile’s mother said 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, adding that she had underlined to her children to that they must do what authorities tell them to do to survive. Police have not released details on the ethnicity or service record of the police officer involved but to say he has been placed on paid administrative leave.
“I know my son … we know black people have been killed … I always told them, whatever you do when you get stopped by police, comply, comply, comply.”
Police use of force, particularly against minorities, has returned to the national spotlight since the video-recorded fatal shooting earlier this week of 37-year-old Alton Sterling by police in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The U.S. Justice Department on Wednesday launched a civil rights investigation into the shooting, which took place after Sterling, who was black, scuffled with two white police officers outside a convenience store.
Castile’s cousin, Antonio Johnson, told the Star Tribune that he believed that because Philando Castile was a black man driving in Falcon Heights, a largely middle-class suburb, he “was immediately criminally profiled and he lost his life over it tonight.”
The site of the shooting in Falcon Heights is close to the Minnesota State Fairgrounds and not far from a clutch of fields associated with the University of Minnesota’s agricultural campus.
Late Wednesday, protesters moved to the governor’s mansion in nearby St. Paul, where around 200 people chanted and demanded action from Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton. By daybreak Thursday, around 50 protesters remained outside the mansion despite a light rain.
Dayton’s spokesman didn’t immediately respond to an inquiry from The Associated Press.
The video posted Wednesday night on Facebook Live appears to show the aftermath of a shooting like the one described by Mangseth. It shows the woman in a car next to a bloodied man quietly slumped in a seat. The woman describes being pulled over for a “busted tail light” and her boyfriend being shot as he told the officer that he was carrying a pistol and was licensed. A clearly distraught person who appears to be an armed police officer stands at the car’s window, telling the woman to keep her hands where they are and intermittently swearing.
The Associated Press couldn’t immediately verify the authenticity of the video. Mangseth said he was “made aware there was a livestream on Facebook” but that he had not yet seen the video and didn’t know anything about its contents.
The woman in the video says the man she identified as her boyfriend was reaching for his ID and wallet when the officer shot him. Police said in a statement that a handgun was recovered from the scene.
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.”
Clarence Castile spoke to the Star Tribune from the Hennepin County Medical Center, where he said his nephew died minutes after arriving.
He said Philando Castile had worked in the J.J. Hill school cafeteria for 12 to 15 years, “cooking for the little kids.” He said his nephew was “a good kid” who grew up in St. Paul.
Minnesota court records online show Castile had some misdemeanor violations, mainly related to driving.
Mangseth said the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension has taken over the investigation. A spokesman for that agency couldn’t immediately be reached.
The president of the Minneapolis NAACP, Nekima Levy-Pounds, told the crowd she has no faith in the system in the wake of this and other police shootings of black men, including last year’s killing of Jamar Clark in Minneapolis. Levy-Pounds was a leading voice during the protests outside a police station that followed Clark’s death, as well as during a renewed wave of protests after prosecutors decided not to charge the officers involved.
“I’m tired of the laws and policies on the books being used to justify murder,” Levy-Pounds, a civil rights attorney, told the crowd as rain began to fall. “This is completely unacceptable. Somebody say, ‘Enough is Enough.'”