Falcon Heights, Minn. — Editor’s note: The video is graphic. Viewer discretion advised.
As Philando Castile’s head slumps backward while he lies dying next to her, Diamond Reynolds looks directly into the camera and explains that a Minnesota police officer just shot her fiancé four times.
The nation is, by now, accustomed to grainy cell phone videos of officer-involved shootings, but this footage from Falcon Heights, outside Minneapolis, is something different, more visceral: a woman live-streaming a shooting’s aftermath with the police officer a few feet away, his gun still trained on her bloody fiancé.
You sit beside a man’s slumped body and watch the red blood stain spreading on his crisp white T-shirt.
You see a police officer’s arms reaching through a window, and you stare down the barrel of his gun.
You hear that officer’s voice crack with emotion as he explains why he pulled the trigger. And you listen to the man’s fiancée tearfully tell him that’s not what happened.
“You shot four bullets into him, sir,” she says. “He was just getting his license and registration, sir.”
“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,” Reynolds said as she broadcast the Wednesday evening shooting on Facebook.
Castile, an African-American, was a school nutrition services supervisor who was popular among his colleagues and students, according to his employer.
He had been pulled over for a busted tail light, Reynolds,who live-streamed the immediate aftermath of the shooting on Facebook, explained in the video. He told the officer he was armed and had a concealed carry permit, she said. Her daughter, 4, is in the back seat.
As she speaks, Castile’s wrists are crossed. Blood covers the bottom of his white T-shirt sleeve and a large area around his sternum and left rib cage. Perhaps in shock or agony, he peers emptily upward.
“All Americans should be deeply troubled by the fatal shootings of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, Minnesota,” President Obama wrote in a Facebook post. “We’ve seen such tragedies far too many times, and our hearts go out to the families and communities who’ve suffered such a painful loss.”
The President said he’s constrained in commenting on the particular facts of these cases but said he was encouraged by the Department of Justice civil rights investigation in Sterling’s case. Whatever the outcome of these investigations, he said, ‘what’s clear is that these fatal shootings are not isolated incidents.”
“They are symptomatic of the broader challenges within our criminal justice system, the racial disparities that appear across the system year after year, and the resulting lack of trust that exists between law enforcement and too many of the communities they serve,” President Obama wrote.
On Thursday, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton requested the assistance of the U.S. attorney general’s office and the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice and ‘urged them to come in here as soon as possible’ to determine ‘what is appropriate.’
“I agree that this kind of behavior is unacceptable,” Gov. Dayton said. “It’s not the norm in Minnesota.”
‘A busted tail light’
“Stay with me,” are the first words heard in her video. “We got pulled over for a busted tail light in the back.”
The camera shows the woman speaking, then turns to a man in a white shirt, covered in blood. Out the window appears to be a police officer with his gun drawn.
The footage was streamed on a Facebook account under the name Lavish Reynolds. WCCO spoke to Castile’s family who identified the woman as Diamond Reynolds.
In the video’s first minute, Reynolds says that Castile is licensed to carry a firearm. She claims that before the shooting, her boyfriend was trying to get his ID from his wallet in his back pocket.
The video appears to be shot with the phone’s front-facing camera, so the perspective is flipped, as letters would be in a mirror. Because of this, the steering wheel appears to be on the wrong side of the car.
Clarence Castile, Philando Castile’s uncle, told CNN that the family is devastated.
— Jennifer Mayerle (@jennifermayerle) July 7, 2016
“We all know my nephew was a good kid and we want justice as well as relief,” he said.
Castile said that Philando worked as a kitchen supervisor for the St. Paul School District. The last time the two of them spoke was in May. They talked about setting up a nest egg for Philando’s eventual retirement.
“My nephew has a (concealed carry) permit, and still got killed for carrying a gun … this needs to stop. This happens so often.”
An ongoing investigation
Mangseth said there were two officers present when the incident occurred — a primary officer responded, who he believes has more than five years of experience, and there was also a backup officer. Having both is standard procedure.
The St. Anthony’s Police Department doesn’t have body cameras, according to the department’s office manager, Kim Brazil.
One officer has been placed on standard paid administrative leave, Mangseth said at a short news conference early Thursday morning.
No police were injured.
Mangseth said he hasn’t seen the video, but he knows about it and that it was live-streamed on Facebook.
The nearly 10-minute video garnered more than 1 million views before it was pulled from Facebook.
It was then re-released on the social media platform with a graphic warning.
The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension Assistance, a state-wide criminal investigative agency, was called and is investigating the incident, Mangseth said.
“We will release the information as we learn it, and we will address concerns as we are faced with them,” he said.
— Unicorn Riot (@UR_Ninja) July 7, 2016
Mangseth told reporters that it’s the first officer-involved shooting in the area in more than 30 years.
“It’s shocking,” he said. “It’s not something that occurs in this area often.”
The shooting comes just a day after an officer-involved shooting was filmed by bystanders in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Alton Sterling, 37, died, sparking mourning and outrage across the country.
By early Thursday, protesters had begun to gather outside Minnesota Governor’s Residence.
‘I’m right here’
Reynolds narrates the incident throughout much of the video — alerting her followers and the viewing public to what was happening.
— Unicorn Riot (@UR_Ninja) July 7, 2016
She’s calm and composed at first; a striking juxtaposition to the officers yelling expletives outside the vehicle.
“Please don’t tell me this lord, please, Jesus don’t tell me that he’s gone,” Reynolds pleads with police in a hauntingly calm voice.
“Please don’t tell me that he’s gone. Please officer don’t tell me that you just did this to him.”
She’s then asked to step outside with her hands up. While being ordered to walk backwards toward police, she points the camera at them.
The phone is then thrown on the ground nearby. The camera faces up, and it keeps recording.
Reynolds begins to cry and lose her composure. She’s heard wailing and pleading with officers. Police can also be heard in the background.
And camera keeps pointing up at the sky, before it goes black while the voices continue.
Reynolds eventually gets a hold of the phone again, and says she begins filming from the back seat of a police car with the little girl.
She seems calm again, alerting viewers to her location and asking someone to come pick her up.
“I can’t believe they just did this,” she says.
Then she screams.
“It’s OK,” the little girl says. “I’m right here with you.”
— Unicorn Riot (@UR_Ninja) July 7, 2016
Statement from Saint Paul Public Schools, where Castile worked
Saint Paul Public Schools and its staff grieve the tragic death of a former student and current employee, Philando Castile.
He graduated from Central High School in 2001 and had worked for Saint Paul Public Schools (SPPS) since he was 19 years old, beginning in 2002, in the Nutrition Services Department.
Mr. Castile was promoted to a supervisory position two years ago and was currently working in one of our schools during the summer term.
Colleagues describe him as a team player who maintained great relationships with staff and students alike. He had a cheerful disposition and his colleagues enjoyed working with him. He was quick to greet former coworkers with a smile and hug.
One coworker said, “Kids loved him. He was smart, over-qualified. He was quiet, respectful, and kind. I knew him as warm and funny; he called me his ‘wing man.’ He wore a shirt and tie to his supervisor interview and said his goal was to one day ‘sit on the other side of this table.’”
Those who worked with him daily said he will be greatly missed.
“I am deeply sorry for his family and for their loss. He’s worked in SPPS for many years and he graduated from our district, so he was one of our own,” said SPPS Superintendent Valeria Silva.
Grief counselors will be available for staff and students as needed or requested.
The Saint Paul Public Schools family extends its deepest sympathy to Mr. Castile’s family and loved ones.
Videos recorded by bystanders have become a mainstay of how we learn about police shootings amid debate across the United States over whether officers’ use of deadly force is justified.
But this one, recorded and shared by Castile’s fiancée, Diamond Reynolds, puts viewers with her in the passenger seat. It shows a new point of view — and already seems to be changing the conversation.
On Twitter, digital strategy consultant Molly McPherson called it a “game changer.”
“Obviously, we don’t know what happened before that tape. Anything could have happened. But based on what the woman is saying, her demeanor … it’s hard for me to imagine that everything went according to the playbook,” CNN political commentator Marc Lamont Hill said. “And when we look at the officer’s response afterward, he seems so unhinged, he seems so off balance, that I wonder if he overreacted.”
Family learned of shooting from video
In fiery remarks to reporters during an impromptu Thursday news conference, Reynolds said she began live-streaming after the shooting because she wanted people to know the truth.
“I wanted it to go viral so the people could see,” she said. “I wanted everybody in the world to see what the police do.”
Facebook Live automatically records live streams and lets people watch them again later. Reynolds’ video was spotted quickly and shared by Black Lives Matter activists Wednesday.
By the end of the night, other live streams showed mourners and protesters gathering outside the Minnesota Governor’s Residence in St. Paul.
But the protesters weren’t the only ones who learned about Castile’s shooting from the Facebook video.
Some members of his family also say they watched the aftermath of the shooting unfold live.
Clarence Castile, Philando’s uncle, told CNN that as he watched the video, he wondered why no one was helping his nephew.
“From what I’ve seen on the live stream, the officer was standing there with his gun still pointed at my nephew. I mean, the man, the man was still standing there with the gun pointed at my nephew, screaming at him, and he was laying in the car, you know, swelling up, his arm swollen and hanging off his body, and, you know, blood everywhere.”
Mother Valerie Castile told CNN she rushed to the shooting scene after she heard her daughter scream as the live stream played.
“I just wanted to get where my son was,” she said. “I didn’t want my son to die alone.”