On Wednesday night at about 9 p.m., police pulled over a black couple driving near Larpenteur Avenue and Fry Street in Falcon Heights. The car had a broken taillight. The stop ended with the driver, Philando Castile, dead of multiple gunshot wounds.
In a 10-minute video posted on Facebook Live, the female passenger relays her boyfriend's shooting by a St. Anthony police officer. Castile had a license to carry a firearm, and was trying to tell the officer that he was only reaching for his ID when the officer fired, the woman said.
She added that he was shot a total of four times.
The graphic video captures Castile moaning with pain in the driver's seat, the front of his white t-shirt soaked in blood, as the officer who shot him points a gun through the open window.
"Fuck! I told him not to reach for it!" the officer says. "I told him to keep his hand open!"
The passenger calmly disagrees. "You told him to get his ID, sir, and his license."
When Castile appears to lose consciousness, off-camera police order the woman out of the car and detain her. She calls for her daughter, and a little girl cries out from the backseat.
Castile was taken to Hennepin County Medical Center. His family soon reported that he had died.
By midnight, a crowd of about 50 people had formed across the street from the scene of the shooting. As investigators with the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension gathered evidence from Castile's abandoned white car, spectators castigated the cluster of police standing guard in the middle of the street. "You guys should be standing up against murder!" and "What about you detective, you got nothing to say? No 'sorry this happened'?"
In attendance were Nekima Levy-Pounds of Minneapolis Black Lives Matter, Rashad Turner of St. Paul Black Lives Matter, longtime social justice advocate Mel Reeves, and a number of other leading local activists.
Corydon Nilsson, an organizer for Black Lives Matter St. Paul and the Twin Cities Coalition for Justice for Jamar, headed straight for Larpenteur and Fry as soon as he saw the video about an hour after the shooting. "My heart's been broken all day for the one in Baton Rouge, and then to see it here two miles from where I live, it's too much," he says. "I talked to a coworker earlier, he was a great guy, a normal guy, he had no oddities at all."
Castile was a kitchen supervisor at J.J. Hill Montessori Magnet School in St. Paul, and reportedly the father of the little girl who was in the back of the car at the time of the shooting.
"The video is pretty damning. The officer seems to know he screwed up toward the end," Nilsson says. "I don't know. I never believe a cop is going to get indicted, so I don't wanna get my hopes up, but this one is pretty bad."
Liliana Tenquist, a St. Paul teacher who also lives near the Falcon Heights neighborhood where Castile was shot, says her heart goes out to the students of J.J. Hill watching the news Wednesday night, and seeing their cook die on camera.
"[The officers] took an oath when they took that badge, and they need to take that oath very seriously," Tenquist says. "It's the same oath I take when I work with kids, to honor and serve and protect. There's nothing I wouldn't do for my students, and I feel an officer should take that approach too. It's just disappointing when they don't. It's really saddening for those that do their jobs and do serve."
St. Anthony Police released a statement in the early morning that was short on details but confirmed that Castile was indeed deceased after having been taken to the hospital, and that the officer who fired the shots had been placed on standard administrative leave pending investigation.
When the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension finished at the scene of the shooting, police hosed down the street, and protesters traveled down to the governor's mansion in St. Paul. There, hundreds of people amassed with banners, candles, and megaphones, to block off the stretch of Summit Avenue before Mark Dayton's house.
Protesters sang, danced, and blared car horns to chants of "Wake them up!" when Dayton failed to appear at the gates to address them. Masked men wove caution tape through the wrought iron gate surrounding the mansion. Volunteers barred the main driveway and the back alley exit behind the house to prevent the governor from slipping away.
Police were hands off. One officer approached protesters to assure them that the Facebook video was indeed "very disturbing," and that officers would stand watch just to protect their freedom of expression.
The demonstration lasted throughout the rainy night. By dawn, most protesters had dispersed from the Governor's Residence, though a number held their ground. Dayton did not appear.
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