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Minnesota governor suggests race played a factor in Philando Castile’s death

‘Would this have happened if those passengers … were white? I don’t think it would’ve.’

On Thursday afternoon, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton walked into a news conference to address the shooting death of 32-year-old cafeteria supervisor Philando Castile, who was killed Wednesday by a police officer while sitting in the driver’s seat of a vehicle during a traffic stop in Falcon Heights, Minnesota.

Dayton opened the conference by expressing his condolences to Castile’s family and friends, and added that although all of the facts were not yet known, it was still a tragedy that should not have occurred.

“Nobody should be shot and killed in Minnesota for a taillight being out of function,” Dayton said. “Nobody should be shot and killed while they’re seated, still in their car … without a very, very different kind of response. So, I’m heartbroken for Minnesota.”

Not even two minutes into the conference, Dayton remained calm, but firm in a bold declaration that resonated with many.

“Would this have happened if those passengers, the driver and the passengers, were white? I don’t think it would’ve,” Dayton said. “So I’m forced to confront it. I think all of us in Minnesota are forced to confront that this kind of racism exists.”

On Wednesday, Castile, his girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, and her 4-year-old daughter were pulled over by a police officer in what appeared to be a routine traffic stop. According to Reynolds, Castile told the police officer beforehand that he was carrying a gun, which he was licensed to carry. Castile let the officer know that he was reaching into his pocket for his license and registration, as the officer requested, when he was shot multiple times. Reynolds began recording shortly afterward, using Facebook’s live recording feature. As she spoke calmly into the camera letting viewers know what had just transpired, the critically wounded Castile could be seen gasping for air. He later died at a hospital.

Protesters, including Reynolds, gathered in front of the governor’s mansion early Thursday morning, chanting and seeking justice for Castile. A tearful Reynolds addressed the crowd.

“They took my lifeline. That was my best friend,” Reynolds said. “I need justice, I need peace. I want justice, I want peace. And even after justice, this will never go away.”

Click here to watch highlights from Dayton’s news conference.

Maya Jones is an associate editor at The Undefeated. She is a native New Orleanian who enjoys long walks down Frenchmen Street and romantic dates to Saints games.