Saint Paul, United States | AFP |
A black motorist was shot at close range and seen bleeding to death in a distressingly graphic video viewed online by two million people Thursday, the second case of racism-tinged police violence to rock America in as many days.
A four-year-old girl witnessed the shooting of Philando Castile from the back seat of the car in a town near Minneapolis, Minnesota on Wednesday, as her mother — the victim’s girlfriend — livestreamed the shocking scene.
“Oh my God, please don’t tell me he’s dead, please don’t tell me my boyfriend just went like that…,” the woman, identified on her Facebook page as Lavish Reynolds and also known as “Diamond,” is heard telling a police officer pointing a gun through the car window.
“You shot four bullets into him, sir. He was just getting his license and registration, sir.”
Pulled over apparently for a broken tail light, Castile had informed the officer that he was carrying a licensed gun, according to his girlfriend’s filmed account.
— Joanna Udo (@joanna_udo) July 7, 2016
In the background, an officer is heard shouting: “I told him not to reach for it. I told him to get his hands up.”
Shocked family members immediately demanded justice for the 32-year-old Castile, a school cafeteria worker, whose mother described him as a law-abiding citizen who kept out of trouble.
“I think he was just black in the wrong place,” Valerie Castile told CNN. “Every day you hear of another black person being shot down, gunned down by the people that are supposed to protect us.”
— AJE News (@AJENews) July 7, 2016
A day earlier, a black father of five died in another police shooting captured on video, that time in Louisiana. Alton Sterling was pinned to the ground and shot several times at point blank range, prompting the launch of a federal civil rights investigation.
“We’re being hunted every day. It’s a silent war against African-American people as a whole,” Castile said.
America’s debate on police use of lethal force, especially against young black men, is set to hit fever pitch — as a fourth officer goes to trial Thursday in one of the highest-profile such cases of recent years.
Three officers so far have escaped conviction in the case of Freddie Gray, a young black man who died last year in Baltimore after suffering spinal injuries in the back of a police van.
Police said the Minnesota incident was being investigated and a handgun was recovered at the scene.
Philando Castile’s girlfriend — clearly in shock — methodically narrates the shooting incident in the 10-miute video as officers can be heard shouting and swearing in the background.
She starts wailing as it becomes clear Castile is dying.
Castile can be seen in the driver seat, large blood stains spreading through his white shirt. He was later taken to hospital and pronounced dead.
“They didn’t let me see my son’s body, at all,” Valerie Castile said on CNN.
Civil rights probe
In both the Minnesota and Louisiana cases, the victims had a gun in their possession, though there is no indication they pointed their weapon at police at any time.
A peaceful crowd of a hundred people kept vigil through the night outside the Baton Rouge convenience store where Sterling was shot.
A mural depicting the 37-year-old has been painted on the side of the Triple S Mart store.
“I’m so outraged,” prayer memorial organizer Keon Preston told The Advocate newspaper.
In the Louisiana case, police said they intervened after an anonymous caller told police they had been threatened by a man with a gun.
Sterling’s family lawyer said he was merely selling CDs outside the store, with the permission of its owner.
Officials appealed for calm after protesters took to the streets in the aftermath of Tuesday’s shooting, promising a fully transparent investigation.
Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards said federal authorities would take over the probe, led by the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.
“I have very serious concerns,” Edwards told a news conference in Baton Rouge. “The video is disturbing to say the least.”
The two officers involved, Blane Salamoni and Howie Lake II, have been placed on administrative leave, pending the results of the investigation.