Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton on Thursday forcefully condemned the police officers involved in the shooting of a 32-year-old black man, singling out the shooting as an example of racism and an incident that would have played out differently if it didn’t involve black Americans.
“Would this have happened if the passengers were white? I don’t think it would have,” said Dayton, speaking at a news conference Thursday after protesters had gathered earlier in the day in front of the governor’s St. Paul mansion demanding “justice for Philando.”
Philando Castile was fatally shot Wednesday in what began as a routine traffic stop in a St. Paul suburb. Castile’s girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, and her daughter were also in the car.
Late Thursday, a county medical examiner ruled the death a homicide, saying that Castile died of “multiple gunshot wounds.” Shortly after, the Minnesota Department of Public Safety released the names of two officers involved in pulling over the car Castile was driving. They are Jeronimo Yanez and Joseph Kauser.
“Additional responding personnel from the Roseville Police Department and St. Paul Fire Department removed Castile from the vehicle and provided medical attention until the ambulance arrived,” the statement continued, saying that Reynolds and her daughter were taken to the Roseville Police Department, where Reynolds gave a statement to investigators. “Afterward, a Roseville police officer brought Reynolds home.”
The statement said both officers have been with the St. Anthony police for four years and have been put on paid administrative leave. It added that officers in the department do not wear body cameras and that the investigation is ongoing.
The dramatic cellphone video of the aftermath of the shooting broadcast live on Facebook by Castile’s girlfriend has drawn demands for a federal investigation, demonstrations around the region and scrutiny from politicians, including President Obama.
“All of us as Americans should be troubled by these shootings. They are not isolated incidents. They are symptomatic of a broader set of racial disparities that exist in our criminal justice system,” said Obama, who referenced the shooting in Minnesota and another in Baton Rouge, La., where Alton Sterling, 37, was killed during a police encounter.
Obama emphasized his view that the majority of police officers were upstanding public servants. Still, he said, “change has been too slow” in troubled police departments around the country.
“We can do better than this,” Obama said, adding later that “the data show black folks are more vulnerable to these kinds incidents.”
The nearly 10-minute video that was posted late Wednesday captures Castile moaning in pain with blood soaking his white T-shirt. The arm of what appears to be a police officer, likely Yanez, shakily points a gun through the car window at the man. Reynolds said she filmed the scene after her boyfriend had been shot three to five times.
“We got pulled over for a busted taillight in the back and the police just … killed my boyfriend.… He’s licensed to carry. He was trying to get out his ID and his wallet out of his pocket and he let the officer know that he … had a firearm and he was reaching for his wallet and the officer just shot him in his arm,” a woman who was a passenger in the car says in the video.
The officer interrupts, tells her to keep her hands visible. “I told him not to reach for it! “I told him to get his hands up.”
“You told him to get his ID, sir — his driver’s license,” Reynolds says she told the officer.
“Oh, my God, please don’t tell me he’s dead. Please don’t tell me my boyfriend just went like that,” she then says.
The shooting occurred in Falcon Heights, a sleepy St. Paul suburb known for hosting the state fair, and happened less than two days after the fatal police shooting of Sterling, whose death has sparked street protests and now is being investigated by the Department of Justice.
Interim St. Anthony Police Chief Jon Mangseth confirmed the shooting at a short news conference early Thursday. He said that the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension was handling the investigation, a standard procedure in officer-involved shootings.
“A handgun was recovered from the scene,” Mangseth said, adding that the officer was put on paid administrative leave. He said police are aware of the video.
At one point in the video, which was streamed live and viewed more than 1 million times, officers can be heard ordering Reynolds out of the car as she asks about her young daughter, who was in the back seat.
The phone appears to fall to the ground as it records, and later captures Reynolds in the back of a police car with her daughter, who tells her, “It’s OK, mommy. It’s OK. I’m right here with you.”
Speaking at a news conference Wednesday afternoon alongside the Minnesota governor, Commissioner Mona Dohman of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety suggested the video would be an integral part of the investigation and among the evidence the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, which she oversees, would turn over to the county attorney.
“Public opinion is different because the public has seen that video,” Dohman said.
Whether Castile had a gun permit was not public information in Minnesota, Dohman said, and she would not confirm Reynolds' claim that he did.
Sam Castile, 90, Castile’s grandfather, said Thursday that the funeral had not been scheduled. He described his grandson as a “happy, gentle man” who “would not get in fights or trouble,” and was shocked to hear of his death.
Demonstrators gathered early Thursday near the site of the shooting as a second crowd grew outside the governor’s mansion, holding signs that said “Justice for Philando.” NAACP leaders, including Minneapolis NAACP President Nekima Levy-Pounds, called for an investigation into the shooting, saying, “Enough is enough.”
“We are just beyond outraged at the fact that a 4-year-old” witnessed the death, said Levy-Pounds, referring to Reynolds’ daughter. She called the shooting “murder” and said it showed that “black lives don’t really matter in Minnesota.”
Gov. Dayton, who earlier said he had spoken with the White House and asked for a federal investigation, in the afternoon released a letter to the Department of Justice with Democratic representatives Keith Ellison and Betty McCollum and Democratic senators Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar demanding the department “immediately initiate a federal investigation.” They joined a chorus of politicians and federal officials who spoke out on Castile’s death.
The Justice Department had not opened an investigation as of Thursday evening but a spokesman released a statement suggesting it was possible.
“The Department of Justice will continue to monitor the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension investigation into the death of Philando Castile and stands ready to provide assistance to the Bureau as needed,” the statement said. “The department is prepared, as necessary, to conduct further investigation and consider this matter under applicable federal law.”
The department opened an investigation into the earlier police shooting in Baton Rouge, where Sterling was killed outside a convenience store.
FBI Director James B. Comey, who testified in Congress on Thursday, was also asked about the shooting. Comey said he had been briefed on the situation and “would expect we’ll be involved.”
On Thursday morning, a friend of Reynolds streamed a news conference on Facebook where Reynolds elaborated on the shooting and described Castile, who worked at J.J. Hill Montessori Magnet School in St. Paul and had worked for St. Paul Public Schools since 2001.
Reynolds said police kept her in jail overnight and did not attempt to aid Castile after he was shot, an account that conflicted with that of Minnesota officials.
“As we said no, he tells us to put our hands in the air and asks for identification. My boyfriend carries all his information in a thick wallet in his back pocket. As he reaches for the wallet, he lets the officer know, ‘I have a gun on me.’
“I yell, ‘He has a license to carry!’” Reynolds said, describing the moment before she said she heard a “boom boom boom boom!”
Reynolds said she and Castile were returning from the grocery store and had just dropped off her sister, who lives near the fairgrounds.
“He was never a bad man; he never did anything to hurt anyone. He was the quietest, most laid-back person you’d ever meet. He was loving…. Nothing within his body language said, ‘Kill me.’ ”
Asked why she broadcast the video, she said: “I wanted everyone in the world to know that no matter how much police tamper with evidence, how much they stick together … I wanted to put it on Facebook and go viral so that people can see.… I wanted people to see.”
8:48 p.m.: The story was updated with the identity of the officers involved.
4:23 p.m.: The story was updated with comments from President Obama and other officials.
2:39 p.m.: The story was updated with comments from the governor of Minnesota.
10:45 a.m.: The story was updated throughout with staff reporting.
The story was originally published at 2:47 a.m.