WASHINGTON ― The U.S. Department of Justice is monitoring an investigation into the shooting death of Philando Castile, a 32-year-old black man who was killed by police in a St. Paul, Minnesota, suburb on Wednesday.
Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton (D) said during a press conference on Thursday that the Justice Department will be closely following the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension’s probe into Castile’s death.
The DOJ said in a statement that it “stands ready to provide assistance to the Bureau as needed.”
“The Department is prepared, as necessary, to conduct further investigation and consider this matter under applicable federal law,” the statement read.
The announcement came a day after the DOJ said it would launch a civil rights investigation into the fatal police shooting of another black man, Alton Sterling, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Castile was shot and killed in Falcon Heights during a traffic stop. In a graphic video filmed by his girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, using Facebook Live, Castile is shown bleeding from gunshot wounds. The officer “shot him three times because we had a busted tail light,” Reynolds can be heard saying.
Reynolds said in the video that the officer shot Castile between three and five times. Castile had told the officer that he had a gun in the car, she said, and was shot after reaching for his license and registration. The officer, who has not been identified, can be heard in the background saying, “I told him not to reach for it. I told him to get his hand out.”
Dayton said Thursday he believed race played a role in the killing.
“Would this have happened if the passengers were white? I don’t think it would have,” he said. “All of us in Minnesota are forced to confront that this kind of racism exists.”
Dayton said in a statement earlier Thursday that he was grieving for Castile, and asked the DOJ to step in and investigate the shooting.
Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.) had also called for a DOJ investigation in a statement released Thursday morning.
“The circumstances surrounding this tragic event call for an immediate investigation led by the United States Department of Justice,” she said. “A federal investigation will provide all Minnesotans with a clear understanding of the facts surrounding this incident and ensure accountability appropriate to those facts.”
This story has been updated with comments from Dayton.