By David Bailey
ST PAUL, Minn. (Reuters) - A police officer fatally shot a black man during a traffic stop near Minneapolis and the victim's girlfriend posted live footage of the bloody aftermath to Facebook, sparking immediate outrage and a call by the state governor for a federal investigation.
"Police officers should not be able to gun a man down for no reason," Diamond Reynolds, the girlfriend of shooting victim Philando Castile, told reporters and sympathizers on Thursday, hours after the Wednesday evening incident.
She said Castile, 32, was shot in front of her and her 4-year-old daughter after police pulled their car over, citing a broken tail light. "Nothing within his body language said 'Kill me, I want to be dead,'" she said.
Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton said a state investigation was under way and that he had asked the U.S. Justice Department to begin an immediate, independent probe.
"This kind of behavior is unacceptable," Dayton said.
Dozens of protesters gathered at the governor's mansion in St. Paul, about 10 miles (15 km) southeast of the scene of the incident, where Dayton spoke at a news conference with Reynolds and civil rights activists.
As Reynolds spoke, people shouted "murder," and called for the arrest of the police officer involved.
The use of force by police against African-Americans in cities from Ferguson, Missouri, to Baltimore and New York has sparked periodic and sometimes violent protests, as well as spawning a movement called Black Lives Matter. Anger has intensified when the officers involved in such incidents are acquitted or not charged at all.
The latest shooting was especially chilling because Reynolds streamed a 10-minute video on Facebook moments afterward.
"Many of us watched the video, and we are shaken to capacity at the thought of this," said Nekima Levy-Pounds, president of rights group NAACP's Minneapolis chapter.
Reynolds and her daughter were treated like criminals after the incident, Levy-Pounds said. “What this signifies to us is that black lives don’t really matter in the state of Minnesota.”
So far, the St. Anthony Police Department said only that an unidentified black man was wounded during a traffic stop in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, at 9 p.m. local time on Wednesday. He was taken to a hospital, where he later died. The police officer's ethnicity was not clear.
The Justice Department said it was assessing the Minneapolis area incident but did not say if it would start a formal investigation into whether excessive force was used.
Castile was killed hours after the department said it had opened an investigation into Tuesday's fatal shooting of a black man in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, by two police officers.
U.S. President Barack Obama is "deeply disturbed" by the latest lethal shootings by police, the White House said, adding that the incidents do not need to drive a wedge between communities and law enforcement.
'LAID BACK' SON
Castile's mother expressed shock. "I never once in my life would have thought that my son would be killed by the persons that were supposed to protect and serve him," Valerie Castile said on CNN.
She described her son as a "laid back" but industrious man who worked as a school cafeteria supervisor and enjoyed playing video games. He had a permit to carry a concealed weapon, she said.
Castile, who was waiting for permission to see her son's body, said she wanted the officer to be prosecuted.
Reynolds said police had not even tried to check if her boyfriend was alive after they shot him, and it had taken at least 15 minutes for paramedics to arrive. She said he was shot five times.
"Not one shot, not two, shots, not three shots, but five shots," she said at the news conference. "They did not check for a pulse at the scene of the crime."
VIDEO OF AFTERMATH
The video Reynolds posted to Facebook began with her in the passenger seat describing what had happened moments before. A black man covered in blood sat in the driver's seat as a police officer pointed a gun into the vehicle.
She said her boyfriend had just been pulled over and explained he had a gun he was licensed to carry.
"He was trying to get out his ID and his wallet out of his pocket," Reynolds said. "He let the officer know that he had a firearm and that he was reaching for his wallet, and the officer just shot him in his arm."
Police said a handgun was recovered at the scene.
"Fuck," a distraught man is heard screaming in the video. "I told him not to reach for it."
Officers told Reynolds to keep her hands up as a small child is heard briefly crying in the background.
"He doesn't deserve this," Reynolds was heard saying. "He was a good man."
The Washington Post said Castile was at least the 506th person and 123rd black American shot and killed by police so far in 2016, according to its database that tracks such deaths.
About 10 percent of those black Americans were unarmed, while about 61 percent had guns, the paper said.
Castile's death was at least the second high-profile police shooting of a black man in the Minneapolis area in the past year. In June, federal prosecutors decided there was insufficient evident to charge two Minneapolis police officers involved in the fatal shooting last November of 24-year-old Jamar Clark.
(Additional reporting by Laila Kearney, Bill Trott, Colleen Jenkins, Julia Edwards, Karen Pierog; Writing by Frances Kerry; Editing by Ralph Boulton and Lisa Von Ahn)