MINNESOTA, U.S. – Even as outrage over the fatal shooting of a black man, Alton Sterling by the Baton Rouge police refused to die down, another black man was shot dead and the rest of the world witnessed the horrifying incident via a live stream.
According to reports, Philando Castile was shot dead by a police official in Falcon Heights, Minnesota in full view of his girlfriend Diamond “Lavish” Reynolds and her daughter, with Reynolds live streaming the aftermath of the encounter on Facebook.
Castile had reportedly been stopped in the suburb of St. Paul for driving a car with a broken tail light and had immediately informed the police officer that he was licensed to carry a concealed gun, and had one on his person at that point.
Reports claimed that in the video, it appears that Castile was shot as he was removing his ID, and Reynolds can be heard saying, “You shot four bullets into him, sir. He was just getting his licence and registration, sir.”
A distraught St. Anthony police officer can reportedly be seen outside the car, with his gun drawn against Castile, who is seen slumped against the car seat with blood gushing out of him.
The cop is then reportedly heard shouting expletives and saying, “I told him not to reach for it… I told him to get his hand off it,” while continuing to hold the gun against Castile.
Reynolds later pleads for help through the live stream, and says in a hauntingly calm voice, “Police just shot my boyfriend for no apparent reason,” as her daughter chimes in in the background saying, “It’s OK, mama, it’s OK, I’m right here with you.”
Police officials have reportedly not released the ethnicity of the officer involved, or his record, but have placed him on paid administrative leave after the shootout.
They further confirmed that Castile died in the Hennepin County Medical Center, just a few minutes after arrival.
Castile’s mother Valerie reportedly said that her son “was just black in the wrong place,” worked for St. Pauls Public School and was “not a gang banger; he’s not a thug.”
She highlighted the intense fear associated with being black, as she “always told them [her children], whatever you do, when you get stopped by police, comply, comply, comply.”
The incidence, one of the many needlessly fatal encounters with police in the U.S., and officials’ use of force, particularly against minorities, has finally re-entered the spotlight.
Rep. Keith Ellison reportedly added that the encounter was not a one-off incident, proved right as it occurred merely 48 hours after Alton Sterling was also shot dead for no apparent reason.
He said, “There is a systematic targeting of African Americans and a systematic lack of accountability.”
Castile’s cousin Antonio Johnson reportedly echoed similar thoughts, believing 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.”
Slowly but steadily, it appears that faith in the police is being lost, and demands to curtail the use of lethal force have begun to rise with much more intensity.
U.S. rulebooks state that officers can only justify firing their weapons at civilians if they fear the loss of life or limb and that other options include “verbal commands, use of empty hands to control a suspect, and use of less lethal weapons such as batons or pepper spray.”
The president of the Minneapolis NAACP, Nekima Levy-Pounds herself told the crowd that she has no faith in the system in the wake of this and other police shootings of black men.
The civil rights attorney reportedly said, “I’m tired of the laws and policies on the books being used to justify murder… This is completely unacceptable. Somebody say, ‘Enough is enough.’”
The incident has gripped the nation with outrage, with social media hashtags such as #PhilandoCastile, #FalconHeightsShooting and #BlackLivesMatter doing the rounds, although Facebook has since taken the video down.
The shock has penetrated the crème de la crème as well, with celebrities taking to social media to address their fears and express their anger.
Singer Ne-Yo tweeted, “Another day, another hashtag. You didn’t deserve this brother, you didn’t deserve this. #PhilandoCastile”
Patton Oswalt brought up an issue that has probably been running through the minds of several people – “Listen to how frightened the cop in the #FalconHeights video sounds. Why was he issued a gun? Why was he allowed to be a policeman?”
The focus has shifted from sadness to pure lividity over police brutality, both in general and against minorities.
Valerie Castile said, “I never once in my life have thought that my son would actually be killed by the persons that are supposed to protect and serve him” – rightly encompassing the fear gripping the hearts of millions of black people and other minorities in the U.S.
Photo: Philando Castile/Lavish Reynolds via Facebook