The traffic stop was routine, at first. A police officer pulled over a white Oldsmobile for a broken light on a middle-class suburban Twin Cities street.
But minutes later, Philando Castile, a 32-year-old school cook from St. Paul, lay bloodied from gunshots and dying in the driver’s seat, his final minutes live-streamed on video for the world to see by his girlfriend sitting alongside him.
Late Thursday, the officer was identified as Jeronimo Yanez, who fired multiple times. Yanez and Joseph Kauser, who also was part of the traffic stop, have been placed on paid leave. Both have been with the St. Anthony Police Department for four years.
The Wednesday night police shooting of Castile, who is black, and the gruesome image of his lifeless body reverberated across the country and around the world Thursday, drawing swift and raw reaction from outraged friends and relatives to the nation’s top political leaders, some of whom called for prompt changes to law enforcement practices and the way police interact with communities of color.
It marked the second time in eight months that Minnesota was thrust into the spotlight in the long-sizzling debate. This time, the response was more profound and immediate, drawing thousands of frustrated protesters to St. Paul, where about 100 gathered in the morning at the governor’s residence and more than 4,000 at night for a vigil at the school where Castile worked.
Then early Friday, protesters and police were involved in a confrontation in St. Paul at Summit Avenue and Oxford Street, an incident being shown on the Internet live.
Other footage shared on social media showed police activity elsewhere on Summit and Grand avenues.
On the Unicorn Riot livestream, a person who gave his name as Lorenzo said people began marching toward police early Friday and a window on a police vehicle was "taken out," which led to more police arriving in the area. When the officers arrived, some of the protesters headed toward Grand Avenue, according to Lorenzo. The standoff at Summit and Oxford appeared to be breaking up shortly before 3 a.m.
When reached by phone, a St. Paul police spokesman would not comment on any activity early Friday.
On Thursday, the protesters and officials were asking questions.
“Would this have happened if the driver were white, if the passengers were white?” Gov. Mark Dayton asked Thursday. “I don’t think it would have.”
Dayton called for a federal investigation into the shooting, saying “on behalf of all decent-minded Minnesotans, we are shocked and horrified. This kind of behavior is unacceptable.”
President Obama said Americans should feel “deeply troubled” by the killing, and the officer-involved shooting of a black man in Baton Rouge, La., a day earlier.
“What’s clear is that these fatal shootings are not isolated incidents,” Obama 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.”
He added later: “When people say black lives matter, that doesn’t mean that blue lives don’t matter. … All lives matter. But the data shows that black folks are more vulnerable to these kinds of incidents.”
The video of Castile went viral in minutes, and just hours after video surfaced from the Baton Rouge shooting. Both drew immediate cries for change and raised questions over whether they will serve as a turning point on the issue.
Castile was shot after an officer asked for his driver’s license and Castile told him that he was carrying a pistol and had a permit to do so, according to the video in which Castile’s girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, recounted what she had just witnessed. The Louisiana video shows white officers pinning down and shooting Alton Sterling, 37, outside a convenience store.
While the Justice Department had already opened a civil rights investigation in the Baton Rouge case, a spokesman said Thursday that it also stood ready to assist Minnesota authorities and would continue to monitor the state’s investigation and assess what action may be warranted.
The Castile shooting in Falcon Heights, an inner-ring suburb of about 5,400 that is 76 percent white, came eight months after the fatal shooting of Jamar Clark in north Minneapolis, a case in which state and federal prosecutors declined to file charges.
The cellphone video live-streamed by Reynolds immediately after the shooting about 9 p.m. Wednesday quickly spurred visceral reaction across the globe.
Shot in selfie mode resulting in a flipped image, it showed Castile groaning in the driver’s seat, then falling still as a panicked, uniformed police officer kept a gun pointed into the car.
With her 4-year-old daughter, Dae’Anna, in the seat behind her, Reynolds, 24, narrated what she had just seen. She said the car had been pulled over for an apparent broken light.
“He was trying to get out his ID and his wallet out his pocket and he let the officer know that he was, he had a firearm and he was reaching for his wallet and the officer just shot him in his arm,” Reynolds said calmly as she looked into the phone camera that she was holding.
The officer pointing the gun can be heard uttering expletives, then telling Reynolds to keep her hands where they were. Later, he can be heard saying “I told him not to reach for it.”
Reynolds replies: “You told him to get his ID, sir, his driver’s license. Oh my god, please don’t tell me he’s dead.”
Reynolds recounts the scene over and over on the 10-minute video as she is handcuffed and placed in a squad car. At one point, she recalls: “He 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 and the officer told him ‘Don’t move,’ and as he was putting his hands back up the officer shot him in his arm about four or five times.”
An officer on the video is seen holding the child, presumed to be Reynolds’ daughter.
“Please don’t tell me my boyfriend’s gone,” Reynolds 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.”
St. Anthony police issued a news release after midnight Thursday, 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 release said.
Thomas Kelly, the attorney for Yanez, the officer who fired the shots, declined to comment Thursday.
St. Anthony police Sgt. Jon Mangseth, who is the interim police chief, said early Thursday that 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.”
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 on July 16.
Speaking to the gathering in front of the governor’s residence Thursday morning, Reynolds said that police “treated me like a criminal … like it was my fault.”
She said police took her from 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 that in the minutes after the shooting, officers didn’t check Castile for a pulse or to see whether he was breathing, 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.’ ”
Castile was taken to the Hennepin County Medical Center, where he died at 9:37 p.m., a few minutes after arriving, according to his uncle Clarence Castile.
Shortly after midnight Thursday, Castile’s mother, Valerie Castile, emerged with her daughter from medical center to the waiting arms of friends and family members.
“They killed my son,” she said, sobbing. “They took a good man, a hardworking man; he worked since he was 18 years old.”
The Hennepin Count medical examiner’s office concluded Thursday that Castile died of multiple gunshot wounds.
Meanwhile, Nekima Levy-Pounds, president of the Minneapolis NAACP chapter, 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,” she 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.”
Staff writers Anthony Lonetree, Randy Furst, Ricardo Lopez, Libor Jany, Karen Zamora, David Chanen and Mara Klecker contributed to this report.
Pam Louwagie • 612-673-7102