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Facebook Live Coverage of Falcon Heights Police Shooting Stirs Outrage, Protests

The aftermath of a fatal police shooting in Minnesota captured on Facebook Live Wednesday night by the victim’s girlfriend is adding fuel to the fire over deadly police encounters with African-American men.

The death of Philando Castile, 32, following a traffic stop in Falcon Heights, a suburb of St. Paul, for a broken tail light was documented in harrowing detail thanks to the live streaming tool offered by social media giant.

The roughly 10-minute video was streamed via smartphone by a woman identified in media reports as Diamond Reynolds. She narrates the video with a mix of eerie calm and anguish. Reynold’s 4-year-old daughter is also seen on the video trying to calm her mother, a heartbreaking moment that has sparked much commentary on social media. “I’m right here with you,” the girl tells Reynolds.

Castile’s death comes just a day after another African-American man, Alton Sterling, was shot by police outside a convenience store in Baton Rouge, La.

Reynolds’ video opens with the chilling image of Castile slumped over in the front passenger seat with blood soaking through his white T-shirt and the hand of a police officer pointing a gun through the window. Reynolds said the officer shot him four times in the arm “for no apparent reason.”

Castile, whose face is just off camera, appears to become unconscious after about one minute, prompting Reynolds to say over and over: “Please don’t tell me my boyfriend is gone. Please don’t tell me you killed him like that.”

According to Reynolds, Castile was reaching for his wallet to show his identification. Reynolds asserts that Castile told the police officer he had a gun and was licensed to carry it.

The video captures the officers’ gruff treatment of Reynolds after the shooting. About three minutes in, Reynolds’ phone appears to have been tossed on the ground with the camera facing up, offering a static image of the sky and overhead power lines. About a minute later the phone is overturned, turning the video black while the audio continues. Police officers can be heard shouting in the background.

At about the six-minute mark, the phone is returned to Reynolds, who is now in the back seat of a police car with her daughter. She urges friends watching on Facebook to come to the intersection of the traffic stop to give her a ride home. As she’s overcome with grief, she also urges viewers: “Please pray for us.”

According to CNN, Castile worked as a kitchen supervisor for the St. Paul School District. Reynolds says in the video that he had never been in any legal trouble.

Reynolds’ video drew more than 1 million views before it was taken down by Facebook on Wednesday night. It was re-posted about an hour later with a “graphic material” warning; Facebook blamed a technical glitch for the video’s removal.

“We’re very sorry that the video was temporarily inaccessible,” a Facebook rep told TechCrunch. “It was down due to a technical glitch and restored as soon as we were able to investigate.”

As word of the video spread, protestors gathered Wednesday night at the site of the shooting and outside the Minnesota governor’s mansion in St. Paul.

The drama captured by Reynolds underscores the power of the Facebook Live tool to allow users to document news in the making like never before.

The power of Facebook Live and the Periscope streaming service were highlighted last month on the floor of Congress when Democratic members of the House of Representatives staged a sit-in to demand a vote on gun control measures, following the June 12 slaughter of 49 people in Orlando, Fla. When House Speaker Paul Ryan ordered the in-house broadcasting system turned off, Democrats turned to Facebook Live and Periscope to offer continuing coverage of the sit-in.

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