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US police shootings of black men 'deeply troubling' - Obama

July 08,2016 01:16

US President Barack Obama has said the fatal shootings of two black men by police in as many days are "not isolated incidents" and that all Americans should be "deeply troubled". He acknowledged that the US had a "serious problem" but called for people ...



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Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton addressed protesters outside his official residence in St Paul

US President Barack Obama has said the fatal shootings of two black men by police in as many days are "not isolated incidents" and that all Americans should be "deeply troubled".He acknowledged that the US had a "serious problem" but called for people to come together as a nation.Protests have continued since the shooting of Philando Castile during a traffic stop in Minnesota on Wednesday.It came a day after Alton Sterling was shot dead by police in Louisiana.The incidents follow a long line of controversial deaths of African-Americans at the hands of the police that has ignited a national debate about the use of lethal force.Transcript of St Paul shooting aftermath
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In a statement, President Obama said such fatal shootings were "symptomatic of the broader challenges within our criminal justice system, the racial disparities that appear across the system year after year, and the resulting lack of trust that exists between law enforcement and too many of the communities they serve".He added: "As a nation, we can and must do better to institute the best practices that reduce the appearance or reality of racial bias in law enforcement."At the scene - Barbara Plett Usher, BBC News, St Paul, MinnesotaSome of the people bringing bouquets to the site of the shooting are too emotional to talk. "I'm just numb and sad," mumbles a middle-aged black woman. An elderly white woman, Diana, has driven 40 miles to this quiet middle-class suburb to pay her respects. She was part of the civil rights movement that protested against discrimination, she says, "and it's still going on". Joe, an elderly man passing round blueberries to protesters gathered outside the governor's mansion, agrees: "It's an indictment of my generation of white people."The rally is multi-racial and peaceful but black anger is visceral. "He (Castile) lost his life for a broken tail light," spits out one speaker. "Use your white privilege to help us," admonishes another. A pastor and Iraqi war vet, Thomas, offers this bleak view of the police: "This is the same as a combat zone," he says. "If black people get pulled over we need to position ourselves as prisoners of war and survive the encounter." Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton, who has requested a federal investigation into the shooting in St Paul, said he didn't think Philando Castile would have been shot if he had been white."Would this have happened if the driver and the passengers were white? I don't think it would have," he told reporters."This kind of racism exists and it's incumbent on all of us to vow and ensure that it doesn't continue to happen."The national debate has been stoked by videos of both incidents that quickly went viral on social media.
Media caption"He was never a bad man, never did anything to hurt anyone" - Diamond ReynoldsPhilando Castile's girlfriend live-streamed the aftermath of the shooting in St Paul, showing him covered in blood as an officer pointed a gun at him.Diamond "Lavish" Reynolds was heard telling the police officer that her boyfriend had been reaching for his wallet, as he had been instructed to do."You shot four bullets into him, sir. He was just getting his licence and registration, sir," she says in the video. The officer can be heard shouting: "I told him not to reach for it. I told him to get his hand out."

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Philando Castile was a school cafeteria supervisor

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Diamond Reynolds made an emotional statement outside the governor's residence in St Paul

An emotional Ms Reynolds joined protesters outside Governor Dayton's official residence in St Paul, saying that she had filmed the incident so "the world knows that these police are not here to protect and serve us, they are here to assassinate us".Leading black celebrities also joined the calls for action. Singer Beyonce published a statement on her website, calling on people to "take a stand and demand that they stop killing us".Mr Castile, 32, worked as a cafeteria supervisor at a Montessori school. His cousin Antonio Johnson told the Star Tribune newspaper he was "immediately criminally profiled" because he was black.Hundreds of people also gathered for a second night of protests in Baton Rouge, Louisiana at the shop where Alton Sterling, a 37-year-old father of five, was killed on Tuesday.
Media captionPinned down and shot in LouisianaA second piece of video from Baton Rouge emerged on Wednesday appearing to show Mr Sterling being held down and then shot several times, although some shots are heard when the camera moves away from the confrontation.Seconds later, one of the officers is seen removing an object from the man's trousers as he lies on the ground with blood on his chest. A witness said he saw officers take a gun from Mr Sterling's pocket after the shooting, but police have not commented on this.The officers involved, Blane Salamoni and Howie Lake II, have been put on administrative leave and the US department of justice has launched a civil rights investigation.The officer involved in the St Paul shooting has also been placed on administrative leave.Police killings that scar the USWalter Scott - unarmed and shot in the back as he ran away from an officer in North Charleston, South Carolina, in April 2015. Former officer Michael Slager facing murder chargeLaquan McDonald - 17-year-old was holding a knife but appeared to be moving away from police in Chicago when shot 16 times in 2014. Officer Jason Van Dyke denies murder chargeMichael Brown - 18-year-old shot at least seven times in Ferguson, Missouri, in August 2014, sparking nationwide protests. Officer Darren Wilson cleared of wrongdoingEric Garner - died after being placed in a chokehold by New York police while selling cigarettes in July 2014. Grand jury decides against charges, police disciplinary action taken against supervising officer Sgt Kizzy Adonis

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