by Democracy Now!
In St. Paul, Minnesota, hundreds of protesters gathered outside the governor’s mansion to protest the fatal police shooting of African American man Philando Castile during a traffic stop for a broken tail light. Castile, his girlfriend Lavish Reynolds and her young daughter were stopped by police on Wednesday.
Reynolds broadcast the aftermath of the fatal police shooting live on Facebook in an extraordinary video, in which she narrates the events while still inside the car next to her dying boyfriend as the police officer continues to point the gun at her and her daughter. For more we speak with Nekima Levy-Pounds, the president of the Minneapolis chapter of the NAACP: “It is not uncommon to treat Black victims and witnesses as criminals in these types of cases.”
Nermeen Shaikh: Welcome to all of our listeners and viewers around the country and around the world. Hundreds of protesters are gathered outside the governor’s house in Minneapolis following the fatal police shooting of African-American man Philando Castile during a traffic stop for a broken tail light. The immediate aftermath of the shooting was broadcast live on Facebook by his girlfriend, Lavish Reynolds, who was speaking in the car next to her dying boyfriend as the police officer continues to point the gun into the car. A warning to our TV viewers: The footage is graphic.
Lavish Reynolds: Stay with me. We got pulled over for a busted tail light in the back. And the police just – he’s, he’s, he’s covered. They killed my boyfriend. He’s licensed, he’s licensed to carry. He was trying to get out his ID and his wallet out his pocket and he let the officer know that he was re– he had a firearm and he was reaching for his wallet and the officer just shot him in his arm.
Officer: Told him not to reach for it. I told him to get his hand off it.
Lavish Reynolds: He had – you told him to get his ID, sir, his driver’s license. Please don’t tell me this, Lord. Please, Jesus, don’t tell me that he’s gone. Please don’t tell me that he’s gone. Please, officer, don’t tell me that you just did this to him. You shot four bullets into him, sir. He was just getting his license and registration, sir.
Amy Goodman: The video shows an officer ordering Lavish Reynolds out of the car. She is with her 4-year-old daughter. She is then ordered by multiple officers to walk backwards. She is handcuffed and put in the back of the police car along with her daughter. This is more of the video as Lavish Reynolds continues to narrate from the back of that police car.
Lavish Reynolds: Don’t be scared. My daughter just witnessed this. The police just shot him for no apparent reason. [screaming]
Child: It’s OK, I’m right here with you.
Amy Goodman: Joining us now from St. Paul, Minneapolis, is Nekima Levy-Pounds, president of the NAACP Minneapolis. Can you explain exactly where you are and your reaction to this latest police killing?
Nekima Levy–Pounds: Right now there are several of us, dozens of us outside of the governor’s mansion here in St. Paul. We are outraged that this egregious incident happened.
Many of us were focused on the killing of Alton Sterling at the hands of the Baton Rouge Police Department. And little did we know that this type of tragic shooting would happen in our own backyard just months after Jamar Clark was killed at the hands of the Minneapolis Police Department.
So we’ve been here all night, camped out outside of the governor’s mansion, chanting, protesting and calling upon the governor to issue a statement.
Nermeen Shaikh: And can you talk about the St. Anthony Police Department, which has jurisdiction over Falcon Heights, where Castile was killed?
Nekima Levy–Pounds: Well, we don’t know very much about the St. Anthony Police Department. It’s a rather small department. And there is a strip of land that is in a rather strange place, right outside of the city limits of St. Paul, that the St. Anthony Main Police Department has jurisdiction over.
They’re actually a Minneapolis police department. It’s not the same as the MPD, the Minneapolis Police Department, but they are actually located in Northeast Minneapolis. And so many of us were surprised to learn that that strip of land was their jurisdiction and that they actually were responsible for killing Philando Castile.
Amy Goodman: What are you demanding of the governor?
Nekima Levy–Pounds: Well, number one, we’re asking the governor to issue a statement saying that this type of egregious conduct on the part of officers in Minnesota will not be tolerated. We have a very poor track record in the state of holding officers accountable.
We have not held one single officer accountable for shooting an unarmed civilian in the state of Minnesota over the last decade or more. That is problematic. We do not have a public corruption unit similar to other jurisdictions around the country.
And so when an officer-involved shooting happens, we rely upon law enforcement to investigate themselves. There is no independent body that ensures that justice was served and that the investigation was carried out in a fair and impartial manner.
In fact, the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, which is currently responsible for investigating the shooting death of Philando Castile, has not held a single officer accountable over the last several years. And so we do not trust that particular system.
We want the governor to use the power that he has to appoint a body that is responsible, such as a special prosecutor and a citizen advisory board, that would look specifically at officer-involved shooting cases and, hopefully, ensure accountability.
Nermeen Shaikh: Have the police responded in any way? Have they issued a statement, the police department, or, so far, any official from the city?
Nekima Levy–Pounds: The St. Anthony Police Department held a press conference shortly after the shooting became public. As you may have seen on the video, the police actually took the phone from Philando Castile’s girlfriend.
And the way in which we were able to get access to the video was because she used an app on Facebook that caused, what I would say, is more like a live stream to take place. Had she not done that, the footage from her phone might never have been recovered.
And as a matter of fact, after many of us shared the video, the video disappeared from Facebook and her whole Facebook page had disappeared for a long period of time. I’m not even sure if it’s back up yet.
Amy Goodman: This is –
Nekima Levy–Pounds: And so some people have placed the video on YouTube as a result.
Amy Goodman: This is some of the most astounding footage we have seen. Almost in real-time, it is livestreaming. She is actually protecting herself by doing this with her boyfriend dying next to her and her 4-year-old daughter in the back of the car.
And then when she is ordered out of the car, she, also a victim, having experienced this – she is ordered to walk backwards? Is this your understanding? And she is handcuffed? She is with her 4-year-old daughter and put in a police car as her boyfriend is dying in the car?
Nekima Levy–Pounds: Yes. Yes. She was being treated like a criminal, which, unfortunately, is not unusual in these types of cases. So, if you look at what happened to Tamir Rice’s sister in Cleveland, Ohio, when he was killed a couple of years ago, his sister was – his 14-year-old sister was actually tackled to the ground, placed in handcuffs and placed in the back of a squad car as she ran to her dying brother.
Here in Minneapolis, after Jamar Clark was killed, there were dozens of African-American witnesses on the scene. When the police arrived, they intimidated the witnesses; they sprayed them with mace and pepper spray. They pulled guns on them and they physically pushed them.
So it is not uncommon to treat Black victims and witnesses as criminals in these types of cases.
Amy Goodman: Nekima Levy-Pounds, we thank you for being with us. Of course, we’re going to continue to follow the story.
Democracy Now! is broadcast weekdays on over 1,300 radio and TV stations, the largest public media collaboration in the country, and at www.democracynow.org, where archived shows, transcripts, podcasts and more can also be found. This segment was broadcast Thursday, July 7, 2016.