An African American man was fatally shot Wednesday night by a police officer during a traffic stop in the midwestern city of Falcon Heights, Minnesota, prompting the governor, Mark Dayton, to call for an independent federal investigation.
It was the second fatal police shooting of an African American male by white police officers in as many days.
In the latest shooting, a child and a woman were passengers in the car. Shortly after the shots were fired, the woman began video recording the scene on her cell phone and streamed it live on her private Facebook account.
The victim was shown slumped in the car and bleeding profusely with at least one officer pointing a gun through the driver’s side window.
The incident began when a policeman pulled over the vehicle, according to John Mangseth, interim police chief of the St. Anthony Police Department, which provides police services for Falcon Heights. Police have not disclosed the reason for the traffic stop or what led to the shooting. Nor have police confirmed the video on Facebook is of the same incident.
The victim has been identified as Philando Castile, 32, of nearby St. Paul. He was a cafeteria supervisor at a Montessori school.
Victim’s uncle outraged
Clarence Castile, the victim’s uncle, said on CNN that the shooting is another indication of police not serving and protecting the public as they are trained to do. “They tend to be executioners, judges, murderers,” he said.[xyz-ihs snippet=”adsense-body-ad”]
The officer involved in the shooting has been put on administrative leave.
As word of the shooting spread, protesters gathered at the hospital where Castile was pronounced dead. About 200 protesters gathered later at the governor’s mansion in nearby St. Paul.
2nd such incident this week
The shooting comes one day after police killed 37-year-old Alton Sterling in the southern city of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Officers responding to a call about an armed man pinned Sterling to the ground when at least one officer shot him. The investigation into the shooting is being led by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division.
Both incidents are raising questions about excessive police force, particularly against minorities.
Samuel Walker, professor emeritus at the University of Nebraska and an expert on police accountability, told VOA, “There’s deep seated racial prejudice” among some white Americans “and that plays out in police encounters.” Walker said some police officers have “an unconscious bias” that causes them into “reacting accordingly.”
“We’re really the prisoners of our history in this country,” Walker added.
With the proliferation of video recording devices, Walker said the United States is in the midst of “a digital revolution of policing” that is having a “tremendous effect” on the practice nationwide.
Mobile video impact
Although fatal police shootings go unabated, videos have had a “huge impact on public understanding of policing,” Walker said.
There have been 509 fatal police shootings in the United States in 2016 compared to 990 last year, according to a national database maintained by The Washington Post.
Continuous deadly force training in local police departments would help officers better handle encounters with the public, said Walker; but, such training is “hit or miss” due to the lack of national standards for the 15,000 separate local law enforcement agencies across the U.S.