A suburban police officer likely wouldn’t have shot dead a black motorist if he had been white, Minnesota’s governor has said, joining the national debate in the US over how law enforcement treats black people.
Philando Castile’s girlfriend streamed live on Facebook the gruesome aftermath of his shooting in a St Paul suburb this week.
Castile, a school cafeteria supervisor, had been shot “for no apparent reason” while reaching for his wallet, after telling the officer he had a gun and a permit to carry it, said Diamond Reynolds, the girlfriend, in the video.
“Would this have happened if those passengers would have been white? I don’t think it would have,” Governor Mark Dayton said.
Hours after Dayton’s remarks, gunmen shot and killed five police officers in Dallas, amid protests over Castile’s killing and over a second fatal police shooting of a black man.
Alton Sterling, 37, was killed on Tuesday in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, after he scuffled with two white police officers outside a convenience store. Portions of that shooting were also caught on video.
Castile was shot in Falcon Heights, a mostly white community of 5,000, served primarily by the nearby St Anthony Police Department.
In the video, Reynolds describes being pulled over for a “busted tail light.”
Reynolds told reporters that the 32-year-old Castile, of St. Paul, did “nothing but what the police officer asked of us, which was to put your hands in the air and get your licence and registration.”
The video shows her in a car next to a bloodied Castile, who is slumped in a seat.
A distraught person, who appears to be a police officer, stands at the car’s window, telling 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,” Reynolds calmly responds.
State investigators named the two officers as Jeronimo Yanez and Joseph Kauser. Both had been with the St Anthony Police Department for four years and were put on administrative leave.
Yanez approached Castile’s car from the driver’s side, and Kauser from the passenger side, according to the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.
The agency said Yanez opened fire, striking Castile multiple times. Several videos, including squad car video of the incident, have been collected, but St Anthony officers don’t wear body cameras.
The bureau did not give the officers’ races. Reynolds described the officer who shot Castile as Asian.
The St Anthony Police Department’s 2015 annual report points to Yanez’s volunteerism; he gave a tour of the station to a local Cub Scout troop and volunteered with St Paul’s Cinco De Mayo celebration, participating in a parade with other members of the National Latino Police Officers Association.
The previous year’s report includes a photo of Yanez solemnly guarding a memorial to fallen officers at the state Capitol.
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