By Steve Karnowski
FALCON HEIGHTS, Minn. –The fatal shooting of a black man in his car by a Minnesota police officer went viral Thursday, its aftermath broadcast live over Facebook by the victim’s girlfriend, who cried that he had just been shot “for no apparent reason.”
The shooting happened late Wednesday during a traffic stop in the St. Paul suburb of Falcon Heights. The interim police chief in nearby St. Anthony, Jon Mangseth, said he was aware of the video but had not seen it.
In the video, the woman 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. She says he was shot as he reached for his wallet.
The video appeared to be genuine, but The Associated Press could not immediately verify it with family members, and authorities did not confirm its authenticity.
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 cafeteria supervisor at a Montessori school.
Castile’s girlfriend said Thursday that he was killed even though he complied with the officer’s instructions. Diamond Reynolds 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.”
Gov. Mark Dayton called for the Justice Department to investigate and said the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension had opened its own investigation.
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 that they must do what authorities tell them to do to survive.
“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.”
Castile’s exact age was not immediately clear. Relatives said he was 32. Reynolds said he was to turn 35 later this month.
Police did not release any details about the officer who fired except to say he had been placed on paid administrative leave. Reynolds described him as Asian.
It was the second fatal shooting this week, coming only days after a black 37-year-old man was killed by officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Alton Sterling’s death was also caught on video.
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.
Castile’s cousin, Antonio Johnson, told the Star Tribune that because Castile was a black man driving in a largely middle-class suburb, he “was immediately criminally profiled and he lost his life over it.”
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 Dayton, a Democrat. By daybreak, around 50 protesters remained outside the mansion despite a light rain.
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 an armed police officer stands at the car’s window, telling the woman to keep her hands where they are and intermittently swearing.
Mangseth said he was “made aware there was a livestream on Facebook” but that he did not know anything about its contents.
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.”
A handgun was recovered from the scene, police said.
A school principal who worked with Castile described him as “a warm person and a gentle spirit” who loved his job and never missed work.
Katherine Holmquist-Burks said she 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.
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.
“I’m tired of the laws and policies on the books being used to justify murder,” Levy-Pounds, a civil rights attorney, said as rain began to fall. “This is completely unacceptable. Somebody say, ‘Enough is Enough.’”