Minnesota's officer-involved shooting to receive federal monitoring

The governor of Minnesota has promised federal help from the Justice Department during the investigation of an officer-involved shooting of a black man in the state.

Richard Tsong/Star Tribune/AP
Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton (D), right, meets with Diamond Reynolds, left, and her daughter, at the Governor's Mansion as protesters gathered to decry the shooting death of Reynolds' boyfriend, Philando Castile, by police in Falcon Heights, Minn.

State officials in Minnesota promised federal monitoring of the investigation on an officer-involved shooting of a black man just one day after it happened, a sign governments are shifting both the transparency and speed of responses to such incidents.

The Wednesday shooting in St. Paul, Minn., was the second shooting of a black man to make headlines this week – the first occurred in Baton Rouge, La., on Tuesday – prompting both popular protests for justice and promises of multi-level investigations at unprecedented speed.

The state's Bureau of Criminal Apprehension will lead a probe of the incident, with investigative assistance from the Justice Department, Fox News reported. The promise of federal monitoring echoed the response to Tuesday's incident in Louisiana, where the state's governor called for federal oversight one day after the incident. 

The speed of the response has not satisfied everyone, as activists contend that prosecution of police officers involved is their aim, but it does suggest a growing awareness of the need for proactive accountability, as The Christian Science Monitor reported Wednesday.

"It's a prudent step to restore trust and confidence in the investigation process," Jody Armour, a professor of law who specializes in criminal and racial justice at the University of Southern California, told The Monitor. "A couple years ago it might have taken weeks or months to get to this point."

After protesters gathered in front of his residence, chanting anti-police slogans and calling for justice, Gov. Mark Dayton (D) noted his concern about the case's racial component.

"Would this have happened if the passengers were white? I don't think it would've," he said according to a Fox News report, commenting that the police action was "way in excess of what the situation called for."

Protests were galvanized in part by a video posted on Facebook within hours of the incident.

"Please, officer, don't tell me that you just did this to him," Diamond Reynolds said in the video recording while her boyfriend, Philando Castile, slumped beside her. "You shot four bullets into him, sir. He was just getting his license and registration, sir."

The video Diamond Reynolds recorded is another way shootings are becoming more visible from the very beginning. Black Americans who feel frustrated, even disempowered, with police relations increasingly see the the ubiquitous cell phone camera as a political tool, as The Christian Science Monitor's Patrik Jonsson and Henry Gass reported Thursday:

Reynolds’s impulse, after Castile was shot, to reach for her cellphone and begin narrating is one that is only growing within the black community, fed by activists seeking to further leverage the power of such videos.

“There’s a reflex that has now been developed among African-Americans that you need to pull out your cellphone and capture these things when they happen,” says Shaun Harper, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania.

Ms. Reynolds and her young daughter, who is also shown briefly in the video, have met with Gov. Dayton, who has said he was "heartbroken."

"Nobody should be shot and killed in Minnesota ... for a taillight being out of function," he said, according to The Washington Post. 

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