A St. Paul man died Wednesday night after being shot by police in Falcon Heights, the immediate aftermath of which was shown in a video recorded by the man's girlfriend as she sat next to him and which was widely shared on Facebook.
The girlfriend started the live-stream video with the man in the driver’s seat slumped next to her, his white T-shirt soaked with blood on the left side. In the video, taken with her phone, she says they were pulled over at Larpenteur Avenue and Fry Street for a broken taillight.
The “police shot him for no apparent reason, no reason at all,” she says.
Friends at the scene identified the man as Philando Castile, 32, cafeteria supervisor at J.J. Hill Montessori School in St. Paul.
Castile’s cousin said on her Facebook page that he was dead. Castile’s uncle, Clarence Castile, who was at Hennepin County Medical Center with other family members, said Philando died at 9:37 p.m., a few minutes after arriving at the hospital.
The video was posted on a Facebook page belonging to Lavish Reynolds, but it’s not clear if it is the girlfriend’s page or whether she sent the video to someone else to post. Reynolds’ 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 email.
The girlfriend said on the video that 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 to say, “I told him not to reach for it. I told him to get his hand out.”
The girlfriend says in the video that her boyfriend was shot by a Roseville police officer.
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.
Castile was taken to Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis. The woman and a child in the car with him were taken to another police agency and were being interviewed, Mangseth said.
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 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 and also lived in Minneapolis for a time.
He said Philando’s mother, Valerie Castile, 60, was inside the hospital and had “broken down” over the death of her only son.
He said Philando had left his home about two hours before the shooting occurred. “My nephew was killed by the police” without doing anything wrong, he said.
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 hard-working 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.”
Minnesota court records show only 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.”
The medical examiner's office will conduct an autopsy later Thursday.
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.
“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 crime scene “right in front of me.”
“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 side 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.
Falcon Heights, MN: Cop pulled over & shot black man. Brought to hospital. Upsetting footage. Across from my apt. pic.twitter.com/fgRczvxEMK— skeletal trash lord (@skeletontrash) July 7, 2016
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.
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 7-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 Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension has been called in to investigate.
“This is an ongoing investigation,” he said. “As this unfolds, we will release the information as we learn it and we will address concerns as we are made aware of them. 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.”
By 12:30 a.m. Thursday, dozens of people — peaceful but visibly angry — had gathered at the scene in Falcon Heights. Some were chanting anti-police slogans.
Later, people protesting the fatal shooting arrived at the governor's residence in St. Paul. According to a livestream by the independent news website Unicorn Riot, dozens of protesters gathered on Summit Avenue at 2 a.m.
They chanted "No Justice, No Peace," while car horns sounded. The group, estimated to be about 100 people, also yelled, "Shut it down!" along with the names of Castile and Jamar Clark, an unarmed black man who was killed in November in a struggle with Minneapolis police.
Shouts of "Wake up!" also were heard, along with demands that Gov. Mark Dayton come out and speak with them.
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 Libor Jany and Andy Mannix contributed to this report.
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