A Minneapolis area police officer fatally shot a black man during a traffic stop, local law enforcement said on Thursday, and the victim’s fiancee streamed live footage of the gruesome aftermath on the internet.
The death of the man identified by his family as Philando Castile, 32, came hours after the US Justice Department said it had opened an investigation into Tuesday’s fatal shooting of ablack man in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, by two police officers.
The Justice Department said it was assessing the Minneapolis area incident but did not say if it would start a formal investigation into whether excessive force was used.
Castile’s mother expressed shock. “I never once in my life would have thought that my son would be killed by the persons that were supposed to protect and serve him,” Valerie Castile said on CNN.
The use of force by police against African-Americans in cities from Ferguson, Missouri, to Baltimore and New York has sparked periodic and sometimes violent protests around the country, as well as spawning a movement called Black Lives Matter. Anger has intensified when the officers involved in such incidents are acquitted or not charged at all.
Protesters gathered on Thursday morning outside the mansion of Governor Mark Dayton in St. Paul, about 15 km south-east of the scene of the incident, local media said.
Valerie Castile described her son as a “laid back” but industrious man who worked as a school cafeteria supervisor and enjoyed playing video games. He had a permit to carry a concealed weapon, she said.
Castile, who was waiting for permission to see her son’s body, said she wanted the officer to be prosecuted. The officer’s ethnicity was not clear.
The St. Anthony Police Department said only that an unidentified black man was wounded during a traffic stop in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, at 9pm local time. He was taken to a hospital, where he later died.
A woman, whom family identified as Castile’s fiancee, streamed a 10-minute video on Facebook and posted it on YouTube shortly after the shooting.
The video began with the woman in the passenger seat describing what had happened moments before. A black man covered in blood sat in the driver’s seat as a police officer pointed a gun into the vehicle.
The woman said her boyfriend had just been pulled over for a broken tail light and explained that he had a gun he was licensed to carry.
“He was trying to get out his ID and his wallet out of his pocket,” she said. “He let the officer know that he had a firearm and that he was reaching for his wallet, and the officer just shot him in his arm.”
Police said a handgun was recovered at the scene and that the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension was investigating the incident.
“Fuck,” a distraught man is heard screaming in the video. “I told him not to reach for it.”
Officers told the woman to keep her hands up as a small child is heard briefly crying in the background.
“He doesn’t deserve this,” the woman was heard saying as she cried in the video. “He was a good man.”
Later in the video, the woman said her daughter witnessed the shooting. The child said: “It’s OK, Mommy.”
The Washington Post said Castile was at least the 506th person and 123rd black American shot and killed by police so far in 2016, according to its database that tracks such deaths.
About 10 per cent of those black Americans were unarmed, while about 61 percent had guns, the paper said.
Castile’s death was at least the second high-profile police shooting of a black man in the Minneapolis area in the past year. In June, federal prosecutors decided there was insufficient evident to charge two Minneapolis police officers involved in the fatal shooting last November of 24-year-old Jamar Clark.