Facebook Live video offers new perspective on police shootings

Woman streams graphic video of boyfriend shot by police
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Story highlights

  • Facebook video puts viewers inside car after Philando Castile shooting
  • Analyst: "It's hard for me to imagine that everything went according to the playbook"

(CNN)The graphic video puts you in the middle of a horrifying scene.

You sit beside a man's slumped body and watch the red blood stain spreading on his crisp white T-shirt.
    You see a police officer's arms reaching through a window, and you stare down the barrel of his gun.
    You hear that officer's voice crack with emotion as he explains why he pulled the trigger. And you listen to the man's fiancée tearfully tell him that's not what happened.
    "You shot four bullets into him, sir," she says. "He was just getting his license and registration, sir."
    The aftermath of the shooting death of Philando Castile -- streamed live from Falcon Heights, Minnesota, and broadcast all over the world via the social network -- shows a perspective of a police shooting that we've never seen before.

    'Game changer'

    Videos recorded by bystanders have become a mainstay of how we learn about police shootings amid debate across the United States over whether officers' use of deadly force is justified.
    But this one, recorded and shared by Castile's fiancée, Diamond Reynolds, puts viewers with her in the passenger seat. It shows a new point of view -- and already seems to be changing the conversation.
    "Reynolds' citizen journalism gave Americans her unvarnished perspective of the aftermath, a crucial angle that would have gone through multiple layers of reporters and editors otherwise," David Uberti wrote in the Columbia Journalism Review on Thursday. "Facebook, for all the consternation it causes publishers, made possible the real-time transmission of this account to a massive audience."
    On Twitter, digital strategy consultant Molly McPherson called it a "game changer."
    "Obviously, we don't know what happened before that tape. Anything could have happened. But based on what the woman is saying, her demeanor ... it's hard for me to imagine that everything went according to the playbook," CNN political commentator Marc Lamont Hill said. "And when we look at the officer's response afterward, he seems so unhinged, he seems so off balance, that I wonder if he overreacted."

    Family learned of shooting from video

    In fiery remarks to reporters during an impromptu Thursday news conference, Reynolds said she began live-streaming after the shooting because she wanted people to know the truth.
    "I wanted it to go viral so the people could see," she said. "I wanted everybody in the world to see what the police do."
    Facebook Live automatically records live streams and lets people watch them again later. Reynolds' video was spotted quickly and shared by Black Lives Matter activists Wednesday.
    By the end of the night, other live streams showed mourners and protesters gathering outside the Minnesota Governor's Residence in St. Paul.
    But the protesters weren't the only ones who learned about Castile's shooting from the Facebook video.
    Some members of his family also say they watched the aftermath of the shooting unfold live.
    Shooting victim's mom: He was black and in wrong place
    Shooting victim's mom: He was black and in wrong place

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    Clarence Castile, Philando's uncle, told CNN that as he watched the video, he wondered why no one was helping his nephew.
    "From what I've seen on the live stream, the officer was standing there with his gun still pointed at my nephew. I mean, the man, the man was still standing there with the gun pointed at my nephew, screaming at him, and he was laying in the car, you know, swelling up, his arm swollen and hanging off his body, and, you know, blood everywhere."
    Mother Valerie Castile told CNN she was grateful Reynolds had posted the video.
    "We never would know exactly what happened had she not put that out there like that," she said.
    The mother said she rushed to the shooting scene after she heard her daughter in the other room, screaming as the live stream played.
    "I just wanted to get where my son was," she said. "I didn't want my son to die alone."