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Prosecutor says police practices must change after Castile shooting

ST. PAUL -- 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, rega...

ST. PAUL -- 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.

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Minnesotans should remain composed despite a several days of tragedies, Dayton said Friday.
"I make an appeal to everyone in Minnesota for calm," Dayton said in light of the police shooting death of a 32-year-old black motorist, five Dallas police officers being killed due in part to the Minnesota shooting and the shooting of two young Minneapolis children shortly before the governor talked to reporters.
"There is a need for calm and non-violence," Dayton said. "We will get through this terrible time in Minnesota if we all realize that and not take any actions that exacerbate the action any further."
Wednesday night's fatal police shooting of Philando Castile, 32, in Falcon Heights brought thousands of people 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.

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.

Protesters remained there Friday and Dayton said he had no plans to order police to remove them.
"They have a perfect right to be there," the governor said.
He has gone into the crowd to talk to some of the protesters, including Castile's mother.
Dayton, who constantly is protected by state troopers, said the public should be able to talk to him.
"One of my axioms is always go to trouble," he said. "That is where I should be in situations like that. People have a right to see me."
He said that he could hear noise from protesters from inside the house.
Dayton said he is beginning to draw up plans for how to reduce the chances of police shooting black Minnesotans. Castile is the second black man that police have shot and killed since last fall.
Both shootings have occurred in the Twin Cities, but Dayton said there could be similar issues elsewhere. "We have a diverse population spread throughout the state."
The governor did not know what his plan will involve, but he said it likely will be a topic during the legislative session set to begin Jan. 3. Taking it up in a special legislative session is not likely.
"I have not focused on a special session in the last 48 hours," he said. "I don't see that being part of that in any way."
Better police training is needed to "try to bridge these areas of distrust," Dayton said.
However, he added, many people have told him that changes in officers' actions must come on the local level, not "top down."
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.

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.

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Don Davis of Forum News Service contributed to this report.

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