Minnesota prosecutor says police practices must change after shooting

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[July 09, 2016]  By David Bailey and Nick Carey

ST. PAUL, Minn. (Reuters) - A county prosecutor investigating the police shooting of a black motorist in Minnesota on Friday said law enforcement authorities in his state and nationwide must improve practices and procedures to prevent future such tragedies, regardless of the outcome of his probe.

Ramsey County Attorney John Choi said he had not decided yet whether his office, or a grand jury, would determine if officers should be charged in the fatal shooting on Wednesday night of Philando Castile, 32.

"We must do better, in our state and in our nation, to improve police-community interactions to ensure the safety of everyone in this country, but particularly the safety of African Americans, who disproportionately lose their lives as a result," Choi said.

Choi's remarks came hours after five police officers were fatally shot and seven wounded after a demonstration in Dallas over fatal shootings by police in Minnesota and Louisiana.

Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton on Thursday said he believed Castile would be alive today if he were white and has asked the U.S. Justice Department to investigate the shooting.

Thousands of people demonstrated on Thursday outside the governor's residence, reacting to a live video Castile's girlfriend Diamond Reynolds posted on the internet of the bloody scene after the shooting. They continued on Friday.

Choi said Reynold's video will be part of the investigation. "It makes you sad to watch all of that unfold. But again the public needs to understand we have to have the total picture and that is what investigators are looking at," he said.

Officer Jeronimo Yanez of the St. Anthony Police Department shot Castile multiple times during a traffic stop in Falcon Heights, a small St. Paul suburb the department patrols, state authorities said. Yanez and his partner, Officer Joseph Kauser, were placed on administrative leave.

A makeshift memorial of flowers, balloons, signs and chalk messages that included "RIP Philando" has sprung up near where Castile was shot.

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Diamond Reynolds weeps after she recounts the incidents that led to the fatal shooting of her boyfriend Philando Castile by Minneapolis area police during a traffic stop on Wednesday, at a "Black Lives Matter" demonstration in front of the Governor's Mansion in St. Paul, Minnesota. REUTERS/Eric Miller

Reynolds' video showed Yanez outside the car pointing a gun inward. She could be heard saying Castile was shot after police pulled their car over, citing a broken tail light. Authorities have not said why police stopped the car.

Yanez's attorney Thomas Kelly declined to comment on Friday. The labor union that represents the officer has urged people to reserve judgment.

Choi said use of deadly force is justified only when necessary to protect the officer or another from death or great bodily harm. The bar is higher for charging officers than other citizens, but their actions have to be reasonable, he said.

(Reporting by David Bailey and Nick Carey; Editing by David Gregorio)

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