President Barack Obama released a statement on the fatal police shootings of Alton Sterling, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Philando Castile, in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, that said “all Americans should be deeply troubled” by the brutal incidents.
“We’ve seen such tragedies far too many times, and our hearts go out to the families and communities who’ve suffered such a painful loss,” he wrote in a statement posted to official POTUS social media accounts Thursday, July 7, two days after Sterling’s death and less than 24 hours after Castile’s.
The President commended the U.S. Department of Justice, along with the FBI, for taking over the investigation into Sterling’s death. “Although I am constrained in commenting on the particular facts of these cases, I am encouraged that the U.S. Department of Justice has opened a civil rights investigation in Baton Rouge, and I have full confidence in their professionalism and their ability to conduct a thoughtful, thorough and fair inquiry,” he wrote.
“But regardless of the outcome of such investigations, what’s clear is that these fatal shootings are not isolated incidents,” he continued. “They are 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.”
According to a tally from The Washington Post, at least 509 people have been shot and killed by the police so far in 2016, and at least 123 of those people were black.
“To admit we’ve got a serious problem in no way contradicts our respect and appreciation for the vast majority of police officers who put their lives on the line to protect us every single day,” Obama continued. “It is to say that, 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.”
He concluded the statement by asking people to express their anger in a peaceful manner. “In the meantime, all Americans should recognize the anger, frustration and grief that so many Americans are feeling — feelings that are being expressed in peaceful protests and vigils,” he wrote. “Michelle and I share those feelings. Rather than fall into a predictable pattern of division and political posturing, let’s reflect on what we can do better. Let’s come together as a nation, and keep faith with one another, in order to ensure a future where all of our children know that their lives matter.”
As Us Weekly previously reported, Sterling was selling homemade CDs and DVDs outside a convenience store on Tuesday, July 5, when police arrived responding to an anonymous 911 report of a man in a red shirt threatening people with a gun, authorities told The Associated Press. Sterling, 37, who happened to be wearing a red shirt, and the two officers got into an altercation, and one of the officers shot him multiple times in the chest and back. By the time paramedics arrived, Sterling was dead. At least two videos taken of the graphic killing have circulated online, and both show that Sterling did not appear to be threatening the police in any way.
The following day, Castile, a 32-year-old black man, was shot and killed after he and his girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, were pulled over by police for a routine traffic stop. Reynolds live-streamed the aftermath in a Facebook Live video and was handcuffed by officers. In the video, she said that Castile went to reach for his license and registration but mentioned he had a pistol in the car, which he was licensed to carry, and the officer shot him multiple times. Castile was transported to a nearby hospital, but later died.
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