Thursday, July 07, 2016

Woman Streams Aftermath of Police Shooting in Falcon Heights
Gov. Mark Dayton called for a federal investigation into the shooting death of Philando Castile.

By Star Tribune staff writers
JULY 7, 2016 — 4:15PM

A black St. Paul man was fatally shot Wednesday night by police in Falcon Heights, apparently after he and his girlfriend were pulled over for a broken light. The girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, captured the immediate aftermath on cell phone video that was widely shared on Facebook.

Reynolds started the live-stream video with the man, Philando Castile, in the driver’s seat slumped next to her, his white T-shirt soaked with blood.

The “police shot him for no apparent reason, no reason at all,” she says in the video.

Response was swift Thursday morning. Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton said in a release that he had requested the U.S. Department of Justice “begin an immediate independent federal investigation into this matter.” State officials began their own investigation overnight, he added. Dayton said he will do “everything in my power to help protect the integrity of that investigation, to ensure a proper and just outcome for all involved.”

Dayton condemned the actions by police, saying that while not all the facts are yet in surrounding the fatal shooting of Philando Castile, the force used in the traffic stop was excessive.

The remarks are Dayton's most forceful yet on the shooting, saying racial bias likely played a role.Officials said the Justice Department “ will continue to monitor the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension investigation ... and will independently assess what further action may be warranted.”

President Obama also weighed in Thursday afternoon, saying in a Facebook statement that all Americans should feel “deeply troubled” by the Castile shooting and the recent police shooting of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, La.

Noting that the Justice Department has opened a civil rights investigation in Baton Rouge, Obama said he had full confidence in their ability to conduct a fair inquiry.

“But regardless of the outcome of such investigations, what’s clear is that these fatal shootings are not isolated incidents,” Obama’s statement said. “They are symptomatic of the broader challenges within our criminal justice system, the racial disparities that appear across the system year after year, and the resulting lack of trust that exists between law enforcement and too many of the communities they serve.”

Obama said he and First Lady Michelle Obama share the feelings of anger, frustration and grief of many Americans. “Rather than fall into a predictable pattern of division and political posturing, let’s reflect on what we can do better. Let’s come together as a nation, and keep faith with one another, in order to ensure a future where all of our children know that their lives matter.”

Outside the governor’s residence Thursday, surrounded by about 100 protesters demanding “Justice for Philando,” Reynolds said she and Castile were coming from the grocery store when police stopped them. They had just been at a shop to get his hair done for his birthday, she said. He would have turned 33 years old July 16.

Protesters had gathered throughout the night. They chanted “No justice. No peace. Prosecute the police.”

“My deepest condolences go out to the family and friends,” Dayton said Thursday morning. “On behalf of all decent-minded Minnesotans, we are shocked and horrified by what occurred last night,” he said. “This kind of behavior is unacceptable. It is not the norm in Minnesota. I promise … to see that this matter is brought to justice and all avenues are pursued and do a complete investigation ... Justice will be served in Minnesota.”

People in the crowd shouted back, “it is the norm.”

Reynolds said Thursday that police “treated me like a criminal … like it was my fault.”

She said police took her off the scene and took her phone, handcuffed her and “manipulated us to go to the station” where she waited without answers to her questions, including whether Castile was dead.

She said officers didn’t check Castile for a pulse or to see whether he was breathing right after the shooting, but comforted the crying officer who fired the shots.

“They instantly rushed their colleague off to the side where they comforted him. Where he began to mourn and cry, ‘Oh my God I can’t believe this,’ ”

At one point, she turned to Dayton and said, “We need justice.”

‘Smiled at everybody’

At J.J. Hill Montessori Magnet School, where Castile and a co-worker served meals to more than 500 kids twice a day, he was remembered for his patience and friendly demeanor.

“He smiled at everybody who came in the building,” said Joan Edman, a paraprofessional at J.J. Hill for the past seven years. “I remember him saying, ‘I just want everybody here to be happy.’ He wanted the cafeteria to be a happy place. It was a huge goal, and not an easy one, and he did it.”

He was a cafeteria supervisor there and had worked at St. Paul Public Schools since 2002.

 "It could have been me," said Drew Meeks III, of Falcon Heights as he prayed near the scene where Philando Castile was shot by a police officer, Thursday, July 7, 2016 in Falcon Heights, MN. Toso lives a less than a block away.

"It could have been me," said Drew Meeks III, of Falcon Heights as he prayed near the scene where Philando Castile was shot by a police officer, Thursday, July 7, 2016 in Falcon Heights, MN. Toso lives a less than a block away.
Edman said that Castile would fist-bump kids, make sure they didn’t have food they shouldn’t have and pushed the healthy stuff, too.

“You’re still hungry?” she recalled him saying to students. “Well, you didn’t take any of the vegetables.”

A vigil for Castile was being planned for 5:30 p.m. at the school at J.J. Hill, 998 Selby Av.

`I told him not to reach for it’

On the video, which was taken in selfie mode making the image appear flipped, Reynolds said the officer “asked him for license and registration. He told him that it was in his wallet, but he had a pistol on him because he’s licensed to carry. The officer said don’t move. As he was putting his hands back up, the officer shot him in the arm four or five times.”

The video shows a uniformed police officer holding a pistol on the couple from outside the car. The officer can be heard saying, “I told him not to reach for it. I told him to get his hand out.” A child was also in the car.

St. Anthony police Sgt. Jon Mangseth, who is the interim police chief, told reporters at the scene that the primary officer who initiated the traffic stop and the backup officer who responded were St. Anthony police officers.

St. Anthony police issued a news release after midnight, confirming that a man was shot by one of its officers about 9 p.m. and had later died. “A handgun was recovered from the scene,” the news release said. It said little else except that the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension will lead the investigation.

Clarence Castile, Philando’s uncle, said his nephew was “a good kid” who grew up in St. Paul and also lived in Minneapolis for a time.

About 12:35 a.m. Thursday, Valerie Castile and her daughter emerged from the HCMC emergency room to the waiting arms of friends and family members. “They killed my son,” Valerie Castile said, sobbing. “They took a good man, a hardworking man; he worked since he was 18 years old.”

Philando’s sister, who was also crying, said, “They killed my brother. They held a gun on him while he was hurting, and did nothing to help him.”

Philando’s cousin, Antonio Johnson, 31, was also at HCMC. Johnson said Philando graduated with honors from St. Paul Central High School, where he was a straight-A student.

He was “a black individual driving in Falcon Heights who was immediately criminally profiled and he lost his life over it tonight,” Johnson said.

He said Philando was “very nonconfrontational,” “a real upstanding citizen,” and “by the book.”

Facebook video on and off

The video was posted on Reynolds’ Facebook page. The page was not available for a time, but by then copies of the video had been shared many times.

A Facebook spokesperson said the video was temporarily down due to a technical glitch and was restored to the Lavish Reynolds page as soon as Facebook was able to investigate. “We’re very sorry that the video was temporarily inaccessible,” the spokesperson said via e-mail.

Minnesota court records show misdemeanors and petty misdemeanors on Philando Castile’s record.

Valerie Castile told CNN Thursday that she had instructed her son to always “comply” if he was ever stopped by law enforcement.

She said her son didn’t deserve “to be shot down like this.” He was just “black in the wrong place” and was a victim of “a silent war against African-American people,” she said.

About 2 a.m., Castile’s relatives and friends held a prayer circle outside Hennepin County Medical Center. Several family members, including Valerie Castile, then walked to the Hennepin County medical examiner’s office in an attempt to see Philando’s body. Staffers there would not let them, said Nekima Levy-Pounds, president of the Minneapolis NAACP chapter, who accompanied them.

Valerie Castile told CNN she’s angry that officials wouldn’t let her identify her son’s body and that she will have to wait until after the autopsy to see him.

“The family has a number of concerns about what happened in this case,” Levy-Pounds said. “They do not believe that the shooting was warranted in this case. Philando Castile was an upstanding citizen, according to all the reports that we’ve heard.”

Levy-Pounds said an independent body should be appointed to investigate the shooting, citing skepticism with the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, which would normally conduct such a probe. She expressed similar concerns about the objectivity of a federal investigation but said her organization will ask for one.

 Diamond Reynolds, the girlfriend of Philando Castile, breaks down in tears during a press conference outside the governor's residence in St. Paul.

Diamond Reynolds, the girlfriend of Philando Castile, breaks down in tears during a press conference outside the governor's residence in St. Paul.

“We’re demanding justice; we’re demanding accountability,” Levy-Pounds said. “We’re demanding a change to our laws and policies that allow these types of things to happen. Too often officers are taught to shoot first and ask questions last, and that’s completely unacceptable.”

‘Knew something was wrong’

Katherine Bleth, who lives across the street from the shooting scene, said she was driving home with a friend when she saw the scene.

“Cop cars were rushing past us; we knew something was wrong,” she said.

She saw and videotaped an officer performing CPR on a man lying just outside the driver’s door of the car, then saw paramedics put the man on a stretcher and load him into an ambulance.

“What I see is all my neighbors standing outside, videotaping and very upset,” she said. She said there were 12 to 15 squad cars, including some Roseville officers.

A 28-year-old nursing student who declined to be named said she was sitting in the parking lot of a nearby apartment building and saw the scene unfold. It was around 9 p.m., she said, when the car was pulled over.

“I just heard the officer say, ‘Put your hands up,’ and before he finished saying that there were four shots,” the woman said.

 Philando Castile, right, was shot Wednesday night by police after a traffic stop in Falcon Heights.

Philando Castile, right, was shot Wednesday night by police after a traffic stop in Falcon Heights.
The 10-minute video shows the girlfriend being ordered from her car by several officers, one of whom is holding a child, presumed to be the girlfriend’s 4-year-old daughter. The woman was put in the back of a squad car in handcuffs.

“Please don’t tell me my boyfriend’s gone,” the girlfriend pleads in the video. “He don’t deserve this, please. He works for St. Paul Public Schools. He’s never been in jail, anything. He’s not a gang member, anything.”

Mangseth said the investigation is ongoing. “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. “I don’t have a lot of details right now.”

Mangseth said there hasn’t been an officer-involved shooting in the St. Anthony Police Department’s coverage area for 30 years.

“It’s shocking,” he said. “It’s not something that occurs here in our area.”

Minnesota DFL Chair Ken Martin issued a statement calling the shooting “senseless violence that is all too common to a select group of our country.”

“We’re not going to stand apart and allow this violence to continue because it happened in Baton Rouge or somewhere else. We’re going to make the changes that need to be made and finally put a stop to this,” he said.

Staff writers Pat Pheifer, Claude Peck, Libor Jany, Andy Mannix and Anthony Lonetree contributed to this report.

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