An outpouring of anger and intense grief has followed the fatal police shooting of Philando Castile, a 32-year-old black man, in Falcon Heights during a traffic stop Wednesday evening while he was with his girlfriend and her 4-year-old daughter.
Castile’s girlfriend Diamond Reynolds live-streamed the immediate aftermath of the shooting on Facebook and the video quickly went viral. Castile was pronounced dead at HCMC at 9:37 p.m. An autopsy is pending.
Reynolds said Castile had his hands up in the air when an officer shot him in the arm five times. The officer had asked for his license and registration after pulling him over for a broken tail light, she said. Castile also notified the officer that he had a permit to carry a gun.
Nekima Levy-Pounds, president of the Minneapolis NAACP, and protesters gathered outside the governor’s mansion in St. Paul after the shooting and organized a lengthy press conference Thursday. She said she was “chilled to the bone” while watching Reynolds’ cellphone video.
Gov. Mark Dayton extended condolences to Castile’s friends and family and promised to do everything in his power to “see that this matter is brought to justice.”
Dayton said he called White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough to request that the U.S. Department of Justice begin an immediate investigation into the shooting. The state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) will also conduct an investigation.
The governor said he was “shocked and horrified” by what happened to Castile, who was an employee of St. Paul Public Schools. He was a cafeteria supervisor at J.J. Hill Montessori Magnet School.
Here’s an excerpt from a statement from St. Paul Public Schools: “Colleagues describe him as a team player who maintained great relationships with staff and students alike. He had a cheerful disposition and his colleagues enjoyed working with him. He was quick to greet former coworkers with a smile and hug.”
Grief counselors will be made available for staff and students.
The Minneapolis Federation of Teachers also expressed grief over Castile’s death: “He was a beloved coworker known for his humor and kindness that made JJ Hill Montessori a better place for students. With a heavy heart, the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers gives its most sincere condolences to his family and friends. … As educators we stand united against violence. MFT is joining with others to support Philando’s family at J.J. Hill Montessori at 5:30pm for a vigil.”
At a press conference later in the day, Dayton said he was “heartbroken for Minnesota” and said he doubted Castile would have been shot by the officer if he was white.
President Barack Obama also posted a statement on Facebook about the fatal police shootings of Castile and Alton Sterling in Louisiana.
“To admit we’ve got a serious problem in no way contradicts our respect and appreciation for the vast majority of police officers who put their lives on the line to protect us every single day. It is to say that, as a nation, we can and must do better to institute the best practices that reduce the appearance or reality of racial bias in law enforcement,” the president wrote.
Lt. Gov. Tina Smith also issued a statement: “I grieve for Philando Castile, his family, friends, and community, and especially the child, who was in the car with him. I pray for everyone touched by this tragedy, including our law enforcement officers. … As we seek justice, we must be ruled by facts and the law. We need a swift, impartial investigation, and peace.”
House Minority Leader Paul Thissen, a DFLer from southwest Minneapolis, said he wants to discuss ways to stop the violence during a special session.
“There are steps we can take as a community to end this cycle of violence that is killing civilians and police officers alike,” he wrote on his Facebook page. “The Special Session negotiations grind on and I remain committed to a deal that serves all Minnesotans. But it’s unfortunately unlikely to come until August based on what I know of the negotiations. That gives us time to reach agreement on policy solutions to end this cycle of violence upon which that Minnesotans can broadly agree. I stand ready to work with everyone and anyone in the next several weeks to find those solutions.”
Mayor Betsy Hodges said she’s grateful that Dayton has ordered an independent criminal investigation.
“My heart is heavy at the tragic death of Philando Castile, known to so many as a kind, caring man whom children loved. I am especially troubled that he died violently in front of his partner and her 4-year-old daughter; to witness that is unimaginable,” she wrote on her Facebook page. “People in Minneapolis, in the region, and across the nation are in deep mourning: full of emotion, wondering what this means for their families, for our lives together. I hear that. My prayers are with Philando’s family and loved ones, and for healing for everyone.”
Congressman Keith Ellison asked for the BCA to release any videos of Castile’s shooting as soon as possible and called on prosecutorial authorities to reject the use of a grand jury to determine whether charges should be filed against the officer.
“We live a world where certain Americans live in fear that their name will become a hashtag. It is not enough to say ‘Black Lives Matter.’ It’s time to make the system mean it. We need immediate and meaningful accountability and justice,” he said. “Officers who use excessive force cannot assume immunity as they routinely do today. We need one standard of justice for all. I join my colleague Representative Betty McCollum in calling for an immediate investigation by the Department of Justice.”
U.S. Sen. Al Franken said he is “horrified and heartbroken” by Castile’s death.
“I am horrified that we are forced to confront yet another death of a young African-American man at the hands of law enforcement. And I am heartbroken for Philando’s family and loved ones, whose son, brother, boyfriend, and nephew was taken from them last night,” he said. “They deserve nothing less than a full and independent investigation into Philando’s death by the Department of Justice. As Philando’s mother said this morning, ‘All we want is justice.’ We need to make sure that justice is pursued swiftly and thoroughly in this case, and we must also recognize that it is our job as lawmakers to help address and dismantle the systemic racial inequalities that lead to far too many of these deaths.”
The Council on American-Islamic Relations, Minnesota (CAIR-MN), an organization based in Northeast Minneapolis, is calling for congressional hearings to address Castile’s shooting and the police shooting of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, La.
“We call on federal officials to investigate the shooting of Philando Castile and for a thorough review of police policies, hiring and training in the wake of this tragedy,” said CAIR-MN Executive Director Jaylani Hussein.
State Sen. Bobby Joe Champion (DFL-59), whose district includes downtown and North Minneapolis neighborhoods, issued a joint statement with Deputy Senate Majority Leader Jeff Hayden (DFL-62).
“We didn’t know Philando Castile, but we know the story of his death all too well, and now the world knows his name and how he was slain. In the last 24 hours we have seen video of shooting deaths of two black men — Alton Sterling in Louisiana and Philando Castile in Minnesota. A lack of faith in our justice system is not only understandable, it’s warranted. The justice system failed Philando last night, but there is a chance now for the federal Department of Justice to do the right thing in the wake of this tragedy. It is critical that the DOJ lead the investigation and show the Black community that justice, even following a horrific event like Philando’s death, can be served,” they said. “… We thank community members and supporters who have interrupted their lives in the middle of this crisis to show up and decry this kind of deplorable, unacceptable targeting of young black men. To our community: continue the fight, say his name, and know that we are with you.”
The Minnesota Gun Owners Caucus also joined in the call for an independent federal investigation into the shooting.
“This tragedy may also offer an opportunity to take a hard look at police training and protocols related to interactions with armed citizens who are legally carrying a firearm. Despite their portrayal by some, law-abiding permit holders are statistically among the safest populations in our state. With more than 221,000 Minnesotans holding a Permit to Carry, nearly one out of every 25 citizens encountered by police may legally be carrying a firearm,” said Bryan Stawser, executive director of the Minnesota Gun Owners Caucus. “As the investigation proceeds and the facts become clearer, the Minnesota Gun Owners Caucus offers to work with any law enforcement agency that wishes to review their protocols and training for interactions with legally armed citizens.”
Minneapolis City Council Member Alondra Cano (Ward 9) urged Dayton to create a statewide task force to engage all police departments in the state to undergo implicit bias training and create new police accountability standards.
“I, like many of you, am angered by this vicious pattern, specially when I hear that Philando’s mother says she feels that the African American community is ‘being hunted down,’” she wrote on her Facebook page. “No one in this country should ever feel like they are being hunted down. The irrational fear of the Black men and boys in our community — our brothers, our fathers, our grandfathers, our uncles, and our cousins — must end.”