A Minnesota traffic stop turned deadly Wednesday evening as a police officer opened fire on a black driver. The victim, 32-year-old Philando Castile, died at a Minneapolis hospital, a family member told The Washington Post. Castile’s mother, Valerie Castile, told CBS Minnesota that her son had died at Hennepin County Medical Center.
The St. Anthony Police Department confirmed the driver’s death during a brief Thursday morning press conference but did not identify the officer involved in the shooting or the officer’s race.
The bloody aftermath of the confrontation was broadcast live on Facebook by a female passenger in the car.
“He killed my boyfriend,” said the woman, whoseFacebook page named her as Lavish Reynolds, as blood soaked through Castile’s shirt.
In the video, Reynolds says Castile was legally licensed to carry a firearm and was reaching for his identification when the officer opened fire.
“He let the officer know that he had a firearm and he was reaching for his wallet and the officer just shot him in his arm,” she says.
As Castile moans and appears to lose consciousness, the officer can be heard in the background shouting expletives in apparent frustration.
“Mam, keep your hands where they are,” the officer shouts at Reynolds. “I told him not to reach for it! I told him to get his hands up.”
“You told him to get his ID, sir, his driver’s license,” Reynolds responds. “Oh my god. Please don’t tell me he’s dead. Please don’t tell me my boyfriend just went like that.”
The incident comes less than 48 hours after the fatal, video-taped police shooting of another black man, Alton Sterling, in Baton Rouge, La.
In both cases, cellphone video footage of the incident or its immediate aftermath quickly circulated on social media, fueling anger and protests over the police officers’ actions.
From her video, Reynolds appears to have begun recording seconds after her boyfriend was shot, just after 9 p.m. local time. (The footage appears to have been flipped when it was uploaded to social media sites, mistakenly suggesting Castile was the passenger in the car when, in fact, he was the driver.) Within a couple of hours, a crowd had gathered at the site of the shooting, according to local television stations.
When authorities removed Castile’s car, angry protesters tried to block the tow truck, according to KARE reporter Melissa Colorado.
As the tow truck pulled the vehicle away, the protesters chanted “murderer,” reported Fox9’s Ted Haller.
Candles were placed at the site where Castile was shot. Protesters then gathered outside the Minnesota governor’s mansion, chanting “Philando Castile.”
Castile’s family was stunned by the shooting.
“He’s gone,” Philando’s sister, Allysza Castile, 23, said through tears during a brief interview with The Post early Thursday morning.
She said her entire family is gathered at the hospital and as of 1 a.m. had yet to be allowed to see Castile.
“They won’t let us see him,” she said, sobbing. “We’ve been here probably an hour, the whole family is here, and they won’t let us see him.”
In the video, Reynolds tells the police that her boyfriend is “good man” who works for St. Paul Public Schools.
“He doesn’t have no record or anything,” she says. “He’s never been in jail or anything. He’s not a gang member or anything.”
A website for J. J. Hill Montessori Magnet School lists Phil Castile as its cafeteria supervisor.
Clarence Castile, Philando’s uncle, told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that his nephew had worked in the school’s 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. Philando Castile’s Facebook page says he attended the University of Minnesota.
Philando’s mother had “broken down” over the death of her only son, the uncle told the Star Tribune.
Police in St. Anthony, a village outside of Minneapolis, seemed almost as stunned by the shooting as Castile’s family.
Sgt. Jon Mangseth, interim chief, said the shooting was the first he could remember in the department’s history.
“We haven’t had an officer-involved shooting in 30 years or more. I’d have to go back in the history books, to tell you the truth,” he said during a press conference from the crime scene. “It’s shocking. It’s not something that occurs in this area often.”
Mangseth said details of the shooting were still unclear.
“As this unfolds we will release the information as we learn it, and we will address concerns as we are made aware of them,” he said during the first press conference, adding he had yet to see the Facebook video, which he had only learned about from members of the media. “As we learn more information we will release that in a press release.”
He did not add any more details during a second press conference early Thursday morning, except to say that the driver had died and that a gun had been recovered from the scene.
The video startled police reform advocates across the nation, who expressed a mixture of frustration and fatigue.
“Philando Castile should be alive today,” said DeRay Mckesson, a prominent member of the Black Lives Matter movement who worked in nearby Minneapolis, in a text message early Thursday morning.
“I don’t know what else to say,” Mckesson said of the video. “He should be alive today. He is not alive because a police officer murdered him in cold blood.”
Castile is at least the 506th person shot and killed by police so far in 2016, according to a Washington Post database that tracks such shootings.
He is one of 123 black Americans shot and killed by police so far in 2016, according to the database. About 10 percent of the black Americans shot and killed were unarmed at the time of the shooting, while about 61 percent were armed with a gun.
Wednesday’s shooting occurred in a middle class neighborhood of wood-and-stucco homes with generous yards next to the site of the Minnesota State Fair and near the University of Minnesota’s agricultural college. A busy intersection nearby is home to restaurants popular in Falcon Heights and the neighboring suburb of Roseville. It’s a desired location for home owners because of the close proximity to both Minneapolis and St. Paul.
The video begins in jarring fashion, with Castile covered in blood, staring up towards the car ceiling.
“Stay with me,” Reynolds pleads.
“We got pulled over for a busted taillight in the back,” she explains to the camera as the officer can be seen aiming his handgun at the dying driver.
Reynolds continues to film even as a second officer orders her out of the car.
“Where’s my daughter?” Reynolds asks. “You got my daughter?”
An officer can be seen in the distance holding Reynolds’s child.
“Face away from me and walk backwards,” the second officer orders. He then tells Reynolds to get on her knees. As her daughter cries in the background, handcuffs can be heard tightening around Reynolds’s wrists.
“Why am I being arrested?” she asks.
“Mam, you’re just being detained right now until we get this all sorted out, okay?” the second officer responds.
“Wow,” Reynolds says as the camera tilts upwards towards the evening sky. “They threw my phone, Facebook.”
As an ambulance draws nearer, its siren growing louder and then suddenly stopping, Reynolds grows more frantic.
“Please don’t tell me he’s gone,” she screams. “Please Jesus, no. Please no. Please no, don’t let him be gone, Lord.”
Someone, presumably the police officer who shot Castile, can be heard cussing in the background.
“He was reaching for his license and registration. You told him to get it sir! You told him,” Reynolds says. “He tried to tell you he was licensed to carry and he was going to take it off. Please don’t tell me boyfriend is gone. He don’t deserve this.”
The screen goes black.
“Please Lord, you know our rights Lord,” Reynolds says, apparently praying. “You know we are innocent people, Lord. We are innocent people.”
At one point, an officer can be heard talking to Reynolds’s daughter.
“Can you stand right here, sweetie?” a male officer says.
“I’m gonna get my mommy’s purse,” the girl says, her face flashing on screen as she picks up her mother’s still-recording phone.
“Is that your phone?” the male officer asks.
The video then cuts to Reynolds sitting in the back of a squad car.
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