Minnesota Cop Kills Man in Car; Video of Aftermath Is Widely Shared

FALCON HEIGHTS, Minn. (AP) -
A sign is hung outside the Minnesota governor's residence during protests Thursday. (AP Photo/Jeff Baenen)
A sign is hung outside the Minnesota governor’s residence during protests Thursday. (AP Photo/Jeff Baenen)

The fatal shooting of a black man in his car by a Minnesota police officer went viral Thursday, its aftermath broadcast live over social media by a passenger in the car, who cried that the victim 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 the driver 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, in his early 30’s.

The passenger, Diamond Reynolds, said Thursday that Castile was killed even though he complied with the officer’s instructions. 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.”

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.”

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 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.

In a written statement, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton said he asked the White House to begin a Justice Department probe into Castile’s death. The state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension opened its own independent investigation overnight, he said.

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.”

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 live on social media shows the passenger 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.

Mangseth said he was “made aware there was a livestream” but that he did not know anything about its contents.

In 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 that the police just shot Castile “for no apparent reason.”

A handgun was recovered from the scene, police said.

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.

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.'”