Minnesota police shoot black motorist at close range, second such shooting in as many days

The motorist's girlfriend live-streamed the incident. Later, talking to reporters, she said he was shot 'for no reason'. (Representative image) Photograph:( Getty )

AFP Minneapolis, United States Jul 07, 2016, 08.52 AM (IST)

A black motorist was shot at close range by a Minnesota cop and seen bleeding to death in a graphic video shot by his girlfriend that went viral Thursday, the second fatal police shooting to rock America in as many days.

The governor of the northern US state asked the White House to order a federal probe into Wednesday night's shooting in Falcon Heights, near Minneapolis, as calls mounted for justice for the 32-year-old victim Philando Castile.

A four-year-old girl witnessed the shooting from the back seat of the car, as her mother -- Castile's girlfriend -- live-streamed the bloody aftermath while an officer pointed his gun through the window.

Speaking to reporters outside the governor's mansion in St. Paul, after a night in police custody, Diamond Reynolds repeated what she asserted in the shock footage: that Castile was shot "for no reason."

"Not one shot. Not two shots. Not three shots. Not four shots. But five shots," she said in a forceful appeal for justice to be served.

Pulled over for a broken tail light, Castile informed the officer he was carrying a licensed gun, Reynolds said, and was shot as he reached for his license and registration.

She said the officer, whom she described as an Asian male, made conflicting demands of Castile -- both that he keep his hands in the air and that he identify himself.

"Nothing within his body language said intimidation. Nothing within his body said, 'Shoot me.' Nothing within his language said, 'Kill me I want to be dead."

- 'Cover their butts' -
Reynolds said her phone had been seized as evidence and voiced fear of a police cover-up.

"They're gonna tamper with evidence," she told reporters. "They're gonna do whatever they have to do to cover their butts."

But Governor Mark Dayton pledged to push for a full and independent inquiry by the Department of Justice -- which is already investigating the police shooting of a black man caught on video two days earlier in Louisiana.

"Justice will be served in Minnesota," Dayton said.

America's debate on police use of lethal force, especially against young black men, was set to hit fever pitch as a fourth officer went on trial Thursday in one of the highest-profile such cases of recent years.

Three officers so far have escaped conviction in the case of Freddie Gray, a young black man who died last year in Baltimore after suffering spinal injuries in the back of a police van.

On Tuesday this week, a black father of five, 37-year-old Alton Sterling, was pinned to the ground and shot several times at point blank range in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, prompting the launch of a federal civil rights probe.

Shocked family members demanded justice for Castile, a school cafeteria worker, whose mother described him as a law-abiding citizen who kept out of trouble.

"I think he was just black in the wrong place," Valerie Castile told CNN. "Every day you hear of another black person being shot down, gunned down by the people that are supposed to protect us."

"We're being hunted every day. It's a silent war against African-American people as a whole," Castile said.

- Ten-minute video -
In a 10-minute video with more than three million views after it was streamed live on Facebook, Reynolds -- clearly in shock -- methodically narrates the shooting incident as an officer trains his weapon on her.

In the background, an officer is heard shouting: "I told him not to reach for it. I told him to get his hands up."

Reynolds starts wailing as it becomes clear Castile is dying. Castile can be seen in the driver seat, large blood stains spreading through his white shirt. He was later taken to hospital and pronounced dead.

"They didn't let me see my son's body, at all," Valerie Castile told CNN.

In both the Minnesota and Louisiana cases, the victims had a gun in their possession, though there is no indication they pointed their weapon at police at any time.

In Sterling's case, police said they intervened after an anonymous caller told police they had been threatened by a man with a gun. Sterling's family lawyer said he was merely selling CDs outside a convenience store, with the permission of its owner.

A peaceful crowd of about 100 people kept vigil through the night outside the Baton Rouge store, where a mural has been painted in his honor.

Officials appealed for calm after protesters took to the streets in the aftermath of Tuesday's shooting, and have promised a fully transparent probe led by federal civil rights investigators.

The two officers involved in the Sterling case have been placed on administrative leave.