Outrage after two black men shot

Alton Sterling
Alton Sterling

Warning: this video contains content that may disturb some viewers.

Politicians and public figures in the US have issued emotional pleas after two black men were shot dead by police officers at point-blank range in the space of two days.

Philando Castile was shot and killed by police in Minnesota on Wednesday (local time). The aftermath of the incident was live streamed by Mr Castile's girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds.

The video shows Mr Castile slumping against Ms Reynolds as she films the scene. He had been shot several times. The officer is seen continuing to aim his gun at Castile from just outside the driver's window.

Ms Reynolds says Mr Castile had been stopped by police due to a broken tail light on his vehicle. After pulling over, Mr Castile told the police officer he was carrying a gun - and was licenced to do so.

In the video, Ms Reynolds can be heard telling the officer, "You shot four bullets into him, sir. He was just getting his licence and registration, sir."

Her four-year-old daughter was sitting in the back seat when Castile was shot. Toward the end of the video, she is heard comforting her mother. "It's OK, Mummy, it's OK," she says. "I'm right here with you."

Mr Castile was pronounced dead in hospital.

Governor of Minnesota Mark Dayton says the shooting would not have happened to a white driver.

"Would this have happened if the driver were white, if the passengers were white? I don't think it would have."

Mr Dayton went on to note Mr Castile didn't receive first aid, and police officers instead attended to the officer who fired the shots.

It is the second time this week a black man has been shot and killed by police at close range. Both incidents were filmed by witnesses.

On Tuesday Alton Sterling was shot dead while he was pinned to the ground by two police officers. He died of multiple gunshot wounds shortly afterward.

Two videos filmed by witnesses appear to show two officers tackling Mr Sterling to the ground, before one pulls out a gun and points it at Mr Sterling's chest.

A video filmed by Abdullah Muflahi, the owner of the store Mr Sterling was killed outside, shows one officer shooting him five times at close range. It also shows the other officer removing an object from Mr Sterling's pocket. Mr Muflahi is reported as saying the object was a gun.

The US Justice Department has ordered an investigation into Mr Sterling's death.

Politicians and public figures speak out

President Obama wrote on Facebook "these fatal shootings are not isolated incidents. They are symptomatic of the broader challenges within our criminal justice system, the racial disparities that appear across the system year after year, and the resulting lack of trust that exists between law enforcement and too many of the communities they serve."

That sentiment was echoed by Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, who tweeted this morning that "America woke up to yet another tragedy of a life cut down too soon. Black Lives Matter. #PhilandoCastile."

Tennis champion Serena Williams responded to the incident with shock and incredulity, tweeting, "He was black. Shot 4 times? When will something be done- no REALLY be done?!?!"

Singer John Legend tweeted: "We shouldn't have to jump through hoops to prove black people shouldn't be shot by police during routine traffic stops."

According to data analysed by Pro Publica, between 2010 and 2012, black teenagers were 21 times more likely than white teenagers to be shot and killed by police.

In 2015, 1,152 people were killed by police officers in the United States. According to collaborative research team Mapping Police Violence, black people are three times more likely than white people to be killed by police. The team report that 97 percent of officers involved were not charged with a crime.