By Ricardo Lopez
Gov. Mark Dayton on Thursday condemned the actions by police, saying that while not all the facts are yet in surrounding the fatal shooting of Philando Castile, the force used in the traffic stop was excessive.
The remarks are Dayton's most forceful yet on the shooting, saying racial bias likely played a role.
"I've heard in the last few hours from various distinguished African-American men and women who have recounted to me how they've been pulled over, singled out and treated very differently because of their race from how white Minnesotans expect to be treated," Dayton said. "Would this have happened if those passengers or driver were white? I don't think it would have."
He added: "I'm forced to confront, and I think all of us in Minnesota, are forced to confront that this kind of racism exists."
Flanked by members of his cabinet, including Public Safety Commissioner Mona Dohman, and Human Rights Commissioner Kevin Lindsey, Dayton offered his condolences for the family of Castile, who was fatally shot during a traffic stop in Falcon Heights.
Dohman offered few new details about the shooting, saying it's an active investigation. Dayton said his decision to call on federal authorities to investigate was motivated to show he is committed to a thorough and impartial investigation.
"I extend my deepest condolences to the family, friends, and community of Philando Castile," Dayton said in an earlier statement. "This morning, I spoke by phone with White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough to request that the U.S. Department of Justice begin an immediate independent federal investigation into this matter.
Dayton issued the statement as protesters called on the DFL governor to address them outside his residence, where they had gathered since early Thursday morning. Flanked by black activists, including leaders of the Minneapolis NAACP, Dayton briefly addressed the crowd gathered at his St. Paul residence.
Dayton said the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension will conduct a state-level investigation. "I will do everything in my power to help protect the integrity of that investigation, to ensure a proper and just outcome for all involved."
Castile's girlfriend, who was in the car when the shots were fired, captured the immediate aftermath of the shooting on Facebook Live, a video streaming platform. The video spread quickly online, sparking outcry and forceful responses by Minnesota's congressional delegation.
The incident came less than two days after police shot and killed an unarmed black man in Baton Rouge, La., shootings that have drawn nationwide attention and renewed criticism of law enforcement.
President Obama issued a statement, saying "all Americans should be deeply troubled by the fatal shootings."
"What's clear is that these fatal shootings are not isolated incidents," he said. "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."
Obama praised "the vast majority of police officers who put their lives on the line to protect us every single day," but said communities need to address the underlying fissures that lead to these incidents and make meaningful changes.
"In the meantime, all Americans should recognize the anger, frustration, and grief that so many Americans are feeling -- feelings that are being expressed in peaceful protests and vigils," Obama said. "Rather than fall into a predictable pattern of division and political posturing, let's reflect on what we can do better."
Democratic U.S. Sen. Al Franken joined calls for an independent investigation.
"I am horrified that we are forced to confront yet another death of a young African-American man at the hands of law enforcement," Franken said in a statement. "And I am heartbroken for Philando's family and loved ones, whose son, brother, boyfriend, and nephew was taken from them last night. They deserve nothing less than a full and independent investigation into Philando's death by the Department of Justice."
Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee for president, also tweeted about the shooting: "America woke up to yet another tragedy of a life cut down too soon. Black Lives Matter," said the tweet, signed "-H," denoting Clinton composed the message.
U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum, who represents the area where Castile was shot, also called for a federal investigation.
"My deepest sympathies are with Mr. Castile's family, loved ones, and friends," McCollum said. "I have watched the video of this incident circulating online. It is profoundly disturbing."
She added: "The circumstances surrounding this tragic event call for an immediate investigation led by the United States Department of Justice. A federal investigation will provide all Minnesotans with a clear understanding of the facts surrounding this incident and ensure accountability appropriate to those facts."
Democratic U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, a civil rights activist who was played a pivotal role last year after the fatal shooting of another black man, Jamar Clark, in Minneapolis, called for policing reforms.
"We live a world where certain Americans live in fear that their name will become a hashtag," Ellison said. "It is not enough to say 'Black Lives Matter.' It's time to make the system mean it."
Ellison called for the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension to release any and all videos related to the shooting "as soon as possible. The public deserves transparency in the pursuit of truth and justice."
"Sadly, we in the Twin Cities have been here before -- most recently with Jamar Clark," Ellison said. "Nothing we do now will bring Philando Castile back. But justice must prevail. Not just because our community will demand it, but because Philando deserves it."
U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar in a statement called for greater accountability of law enforcement, saying efforts would do more to build trust between police and communities of color.
"I have long supported important policy changes, including videotaped interrogations, reforms to the eyewitness process, body camera trials, diversity in hiring, law enforcement resources and training, and meaningful and consistent outreach to our citizens," Klobuchar said in a statement.
State Sen. Bobby Joe Champion, DFL-Minneapolis, and Deputy Senate Majority Leader Jeff Hayden, DFL-Minneapolis, released a joint statement calling for a federal inquiry.
"A lack of faith in our justice system is not only understandable, it's warranted," they said. "It is critical that the DOJ lead the investigation and show the Black community that justice, even following a horrific event like Philando's death, can be served."
DFL Party Chairman Ken Martin also issued a statement: "His name was Philando Castile and he was a son, father, and friend to many," Martin said. "He was a hardworking member of his community, and victim of senseless violence that is all too common to a select group of our country ... We know that from this point forward, we're not going to stand apart and allow this violence to continue because it happened in Baton Rouge or somewhere else. We're going to make the changes that need to be made and finally put a stop to this."
The Minnesota Gun Owners Caucus, a grass roots organization dedicated to protecting and advancing the right of citizens to keep and bear arms, called for better training for police officers.
"This tragedy may also offer an opportunity to take a hard look at police training and protocols related to interactions with armed citizens who are legally carrying a firearm," said Bryan Strawser, executive director of the group.
(c)2016 the Star Tribune (Minneapolis)