ST. PAUL, Minn. — Following a fatal police shooting in a quiet suburb that rapidly rippled across the nation, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton said in no uncertain terms that Philando Castile ended up dead during a traffic stop at least in part because he was black.
Dayton’s remarks on Thursday came after fatal encounters between police and black men seized the eyes of the nation on consecutive days — and hours before a protest over those shootings was interrupted by bloodshed, as snipers shot and killed five police officers and injured six others in downtown Dallas.
Protests have been raging across the country over the fatal police shootings of two black men, less than 48 hours apart.
First was the shooting of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge early Tuesday morning — captured on video by a bystander. Then, on Wednesday evening, Castile, a 32-year-old school cafeteria manager, was killed in Falcon Heights, where his distraught girlfriend broadcast his final moments in real time on Facebook.
As blood soaked through Castile’s shirt, his girlfriend, Diamond “Lavish” Reynolds, began broadcasting live, saying on camera that her boyfriend was legally licensed to carry a firearm and was reaching for his identification when the officer started to shoot.
“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,” she said in a Facebook video, which has been viewed by millions.
“He killed my boyfriend,” she said.
Castile died late Wednesday night in a Minneapolis hospital, a relative told The Washington Post.
Early Friday morning, Reynolds stood with supporters, saying she wants justice for Castile’s death.
“Today is not only about justice and getting justice, but it’s about all of the families that have lost people,” she told CNN. “This thing that has happened in Dallas was not because of something that transpired in Minnesota. This is bigger than Philando. This is bigger than Trayvon Martin. This is bigger than Sandra Bland. This is bigger than all of us.
“So today I just want justice for everyone — everyone around the world.”
Minnesota state officials named Jeronimo Yanez as the officer who shot and killed Castile Thursday night during the traffic stop near St. Paul. The state agency investigating the shooting said that Yanez and Officer Joseph Kauser, who have both been with the St. Anthony Police Department for four years, were on administrative leave.
Yanez approached the driver’s side of the vehicle driven by Castile and during the interaction, “discharged his weapon, striking Castile multiple times,” the agency said in a statement. Officials also said a gun was recovered at the scene.
“Would this have happened if those passengers, the driver and the passengers, were white?” Dayton said nearly a day after Castile was killed. “I don’t think it would have. … I think all of us in Minnesota are forced to confront that this kind of racism exists.”
It was a forceful declaration from the white governor of a mostly white Midwestern state, almost two years after a white police officer killed Michael Brown, an unarmed black teen, in Ferguson, Mo. — a death that launched a national movement against police violence and unprecedented scrutiny of police use of force.
Dayton, a Democrat, said the Wednesday-night shooting here was “beyond the pale.”
“Nobody should be shot and killed in Minnesota … for a tail light being out of function,” the governor said. “Nobody should be shot and killed while seated still in their car. I’m heartbroken.”
President Obama, speaking in Warsaw ahead of a NATO summit, called for greater urgency on police reform as he added his voice to the national outrage over fatal police shootings this week.
“What I can say is that all of us as Americans should be troubled by these shootings because these are not isolated incidents,” the president said. “They’re symptomatic of a broader set racial disparities that exist in our criminal justice system.”
Obama praised the Justice Department for opening a federal civil rights investigation into Sterling’s death and noted that Minnesota’s governor has called for a federal investigation in that case.
“When people say black lives matter, it does not mean blue lives don’t matter. All lives matter,” Obama said. “But the big concern is that the data shows that black folks are more vulnerable to these kinds of incidents. This isn’t a matter of us comparing the value of lives, this is recognizing that there is a particular burden is being placed on a group of our fellow citizens and we should care about that. We can’t dismiss it.”
Hundreds attended a Thursday-night vigil for Castile at the Montessori school where he had worked.
His mother, Valerie Castile, told the crowd that black men “are on the endangered species list.”
Following a boisterous march to the governor’s mansion, where demonstrators strung yellow crime-scene tape along the iron-pointed fence, Dayton moved through the crowd to meet Castile’s mother — and to apologize.
The dramatic meeting represented the first time she had heard from the governor since her son was killed.
A chaotic scene unfolded late Thursday near the scene where Castile was shot and killed. About 100 demonstrators blocked traffic at an intersection near the site, moving nearby construction materials into the roads.
Cars honked as the protesters shouted, “What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now!”
Dayton said earlier Thursday that he asked the White House for a federal investigation into the shooting. FBI Director James B. Comey, testifying before Congress on Thursday, said he was briefed on the fatal encounter and added that he “would expect we’ll be involved.”
In a statement Thursday night, the Minnesota Department of Public Safety offered additional details about the shooting and its aftermath, reporting that Yanez, the officer who shot Castile, requested an ambulance. They also said that they have collected several videos of the shooting, though none from body-worn cameras on either officer.
“Interviews with witnesses are ongoing and several videos, including squad car video of the incident, have been collected as evidence,” the department said in a statement said. “St. Anthony Police Department officers do not wear body cameras.”
Warning: The following video contains graphic language and imagery.
Castile’s family members and friends said Castile was a “good man” who supervised the cafeteria at J.J. Hill Montessori Magnet School.
Clarence Castile, Philando’s uncle, told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that his nephew had worked in the school cafeteria for 12 to 15 years, “cooking for the little kids.” He said his nephew was “a good kid” who grew up in St. Paul.
St. Paul Public Schools said in a statement that Castile graduated from Central High School in 2001 and went to work the next year in the district’s nutrition services department, eventually stepping into a supervisory role.
“I am deeply sorry for his family and for their loss,” Superintendent Valeria Silva said in the statement. “He’s worked in SPPS for many years and he graduated from our district, so he was one of our own.”
Philando Castile’s Facebook page says he attended the University of Minnesota, though the school said Thursday that it has no record of anyone by that name attending the school as a student or working there as an employee.
“He’s gone,” Castile’s sister, Allysza, told The Washington Post through tears.
Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), whose district is about two miles from the scene, told CNN that the shooting was not an isolated incident.
“There is a systematic targeting of African Americans and a systematic lack of accountability when police use excessive force,” Ellison said. “This is a national problem. It’s deeply disturbing. And it has real life effects.”
Police in St. Anthony, a village outside of Minneapolis, seemed almost as stunned by the killing as was Castile’s family.
Sgt. Jon Mangseth, interim chief, said the shooting was the first he could remember in the department’s history.
“We haven’t had an officer-involved shooting in 30 years or more. I’d have to go back in the history books, to tell you the truth,” he said during a news briefing at the crime scene. “It’s shocking. It’s not something that occurs in this area often.”
The video startled police reform advocates, who expressed a mixture of frustration and fatigue.
“Philando Castile should be alive today,” DeRay Mckesson, a prominent member of the Black Lives Matter movement who worked in nearby Minneapolis, wrote in a text message.
“I don’t know what else to say,” Mckesson said of the video. “He should be alive today. He is not alive because a police officer murdered him in cold blood.”
Castile is at least the 506th person shot and killed by police so far in 2016, according to a Washington Post database that tracks such shootings.
He is one of 123 black Americans shot and killed by police so far in 2016, according to the database. About 10 percent of the black Americans shot and killed were unarmed at the time of the shooting, while about 61 percent were armed with a gun.
Castile’s death came 234 days after two police officers in nearby Minneapolis fatally shot Jamar Clark, an unarmed 24-year-old black man whose death sparked fierce protests in the city.
A county prosecutor said in March that the two officers involved would not face criminal charges because they believed Clark was trying to grab one of their guns, and the Justice Department has since said that those officers won’t face federal civil rights charges, either.
Clark was one of 990 people shot and killed by on-duty police officers during 2015, according to The Post’s database documenting police shootings. He was one of 12 people fatally shot by officers in Minnesota last year.
A review by the Minneapolis Star Tribune conducted last year found that since 2000, at least 143 people have been killed by police in Minnesota and no officers have been charged in any of these deaths.
Bever, Lowery and Miller reported from Washington. Mark Berman, Juliet Eilperin, Emma Brown, Susan Hogan and Elahe Izadi contributed to this file, which was originally published on Thursday and has been updated multiple times.