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Minnesota police shooting video brings graphic death to Facebook

The social network says it hasn't and won't censor live-streamed footage showing the aftermath of the fatal shooting of Philando Castile.

The police officer's gun can be seen at the window of the car in the video.
Lavish Reynolds/Facebook/Screenshot

The aftermath of a police shooting of a Minnesota driver was live-streamed on Facebook, an incident that is reigniting tensions over violence toward blacks by law enforcement.

The video captures the immediate minutes following the shooting of 32-year-old Philando Castile on Wednesday night. A public school cafeteria supervisor, Castile was shot by a police officer in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, after being stopped for a broken tail light.

The video, which Facebook temporarily removed but restored, shows Castile slumped in his seat and covered in blood. His girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, narrates from the passenger seat as a police officer still points his gun into the car through the driver's-side window. Reynolds says Castile informed the officer that he had a firearm, which he was licensed to carry, and was reaching into his back pocket for his driver's license and registration.

"You shot four bullets into him, sir," Reynolds says to the police officer. "He was just getting his license and registration."

Castile died at 9:37 p.m. shortly after arriving at a hospital, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

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The video and a similar video of this week's shooting death of street vendor Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, are rekindling emotions and outrage over the treatment of blacks by police. The April 2015 shooting of Walter Scott, who was shot in the back in Charleston, South Carolina, led to an outpouring of frustration, shock and anger when it was captured on phone video and posted online. That video was one of more than a dozen videos of police violence against blacks that have surfaced online in the past few years.

The advent of live-streaming apps like Facebook Live and Twitter-owned Periscope pose tricky questions. Despite their graphic content, Facebook said it hasn't removed videos posted in such cases because it could be interpreted as censorship and that the videos involve content that is of public interest or concern.

After being live-streamed, Facebook removed the Castile video though it restored it about an hour later. Facebook said a technical error caused the video not to be visible.

"We're very sorry that the video was temporarily inaccessible," a Facebook spokesman said in a statement. "It was down due to a technical glitch and restored as soon as we were able to investigate."

The restored video, which was recorded by Castile's girlfriend and is posted on Facebook on the account of Lavish Reynolds, whose bio says she is "better known as Diamond," is marked with a warning that the footage contains "graphic content that can shock, offend and upset." The company's content policy forbids the glorification of violence, making decisions about such videos a delicate weighing of the broader public interest.

Facebook Live videos are initially streamed in real time from a user's phone, then remain on the social network.

Live videos are a relatively new feature on the social network and have been used frequently by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg over the last six months as part of his efforts to publicize the service. The feature has also attracted controversy, with streaming videos used to broadcast the deaths of two victims of terrorism in France, as well as the death of a man in Chicago.

In a Facebook post Thursday evening, Zuckerberg expressed his condolences to the Castile family and pointed out how illuminating the videos are for many.

"The images we've seen this week are graphic and heartbreaking, and they shine a light on the fear that millions of members of our community live with every day," Zuckerberg wrote.

Tim Cook, Apple's CEO, echoed his sentiment in a Tweet in the early evening. "Senseless killings this week remind us that justice is still out of reach for many," he wrote. "We can and must do better."

The video doesn't capture the moment Castile was shot. But Reynolds narrates the moments immediately after the shots were fired. Castile is still alive at least at the beginning of the 9-minute, 47-second video. His moans are audible.

At one point, the police officer, who hasn't been identified, appears to panic.

"Keep your hands on the wheel," the officer appears to order Castile, who has already been shot. "Fuck," the officer screams.

Later in the stream, Reynolds records police ordering her out of her car with her hands above her head. The video captures her emotional reaction as she is placed inside a police car with her daughter.

The video has been watched more than 2.8 million times on Facebook already and shared more than 240,000 times.

Update, 9:30 a.m. PT: The identity of Philando Castile's girlfriend has been clarified.
Correction, 12:05 p.m. PT: An earlier version of this story misspelled Philando Castile's first name. Updated at 6 p.m. PT to add comment from Mark Zuckerberg
Updated at 11 p.m. PT to add comment from Tim Cook