Last night, at about 9 p.m. in Falcon Heights, a St. Paul suburb, a police officer stopped a vehicle, reportedly for a tail light violation. Within minutest thereafter, the officer shot the driver of the car multiple times, and the driver, Philando Castile, died.
What has gotten worldwide attention is video that was shot and uploaded live to Facebook by Castile’s girlfriend. The video begins when Castile has just been shot. It is almost unbelievable; you see the officer at the driver’s side window with his gun still drawn and visible. Castile dies on camera–again, live on Facebook. The girlfriend, Lavish Reynolds, is extraordinarily calm–much calmer than the police officer–as she narrates the video.
After a few minutes, the officers direct Reynolds to get out of the car. The video continues until her phone apparently is taken by an officer and thrown into the grass. But it isn’t turned off, and you can still hear the dialogue between Reynolds and policemen. After a few minutes a young girl, I believe Reynolds’ daughter, retrieves the phone and returns it to (I think) her mother. The video concludes with Reynolds in the back seat of a police car, again narrating what happened.
Reynolds’ story is that they were stopped for a broken tail light. The “Chinese” police officer, as described by Reynolds, approached their vehicle and asked to see Castile’s license and registration. Castile told the policeman that he had a carry permit and was carrying a gun. The officer then told Castile to put his hands up, and while he was doing so, the officer (as yet unidentified) shot him. Reynolds says they weren’t doing anything wrong, just had “a little weed” in the car.
Of course, the officer has not yet been heard from. But the video is riveting. Here it is; be forewarned, it is rather graphic:
Black Lives Matter protesters naturally have swung into action. In the middle of the night, they congregated in front of the Governor’s mansion in St. Paul, demanding that Governor Mark Dayton wake up and talk with them. A news account say that Dayton was “evacuated,” which seems hard to believe.
The officer was a member of the St. Anthony police department. Asked for comment, the department’s interim chief said that it had been at least 30 years since the department had experienced an officer-involved shooting.
I am afraid that this tragic incident is going to be a huge news story, and a flash point in the ongoing war over race and policing.