My son sent me an upset text last night. "A black man was just shot by a cop around 9:00 or something right close to my apartment," he said.
"On Larpenteur in his car with wife and kid."
The man was Philando Castile, 32. He died while his girlfriend, Lavish Reynolds, and her 4-year-old daughter, were in the car. Reynolds streamed the immediate aftermath of the police shooting and Castile's death on Facebook.
In the video, Reynolds tells Castile to "Stay with me," then streams to Facebook viewers: "We got pulled over for a busted taillight in the back..."
As Castile lay groaning and dying, the police took no immediate action to save his life. The officer who shot him, an Asian-American man, can be seen on the video milling around, clearly upset and continuing to point a gun at Castile and Reynolds instead of rendering medical assistance.
"He's licensed to carry. He was trying to get his ID in his wallet out his pocket, and he let the officer know that he had a firearm and he was reaching for his wallet, and the officer just shot him in his arm."
"Keep your hands where they are!" the officer yells at her.
"I will sir, no worries," she responds.
"He just shot his arm off. We got pulled over on Larpenteur--"
"I told him not to reach for it, I told him to get his hand out!" the officer screams, as he is continuing to point the gun at a limp and dying Castile instead of seeking to render any aid.
"He had -- you told him to get his ID, sir, his driver's license," Reynolds responds. Then Castile slumps off the edge of his seat. "Oh my God, please don't tell me he's dead," Reynolds says. "Please don't tell me my boyfriend just went like that."
But he did. Officers armed with drawn weapons surrounded the car and demanded Reynolds exit and fall to her knees, at which point they knocked the phone from her hand and handcuffed her and placed her and her daughter in the back seat of a squad car. Though officers can later be seen giving Castile CPR, Castile was later pronounced dead at Hennepin County Medical Center.
What makes this case important is that Castile was a law-abiding citizen by all accounts. He was a longtime employee of the Saint Paul Public Schools, and had been an honor student in high school. A check of criminal records revealed only typical misdemeanors and petty misdemeanors for traffic-related offenses that any one of us may have had. He was, according the the exchange between Reynolds and the officer, simply attempting to comply with the officer's order to provide his ID. When he told him he had a licensed concealed weapon, apparently relaying this out of an abundance of caution, he was shot and killed.
I am white, but my close relatives who I love dearly are black, and I have many black friends who I also love. This matters to me, and it should matter to you, too. When a good man can get killed at a routine traffic stop with a woman and four-year-old girl in the car, in a placid suburb of Saint Paul, there is something wrong with America. There is something wrong with how we are perceiving that man. Not just how police are perceiving him, how we are perceiving him. It's our problem, it's society's problem, it's America's problem.
We need less politics of hate and fear and more politics of love and empathy. And we all need to take responsibility to expect that politics of love and empathy from our elected leaders and those running for office, from our law enforcement officers, and from each other. That's real leadership, toward our higher values. We are better than this.
"I'm glad you got home ok," I texted my son later, after police let him into his apartment.
"Okay. I'll talk to you soon," he responded. "Love you."
Words Philando Castile's mother will never hear from her son again.