President and First Lady share in "the anger, frustration, and grief that so many Americans are feeling," he says

By Jeff Truesdell
Updated July 07, 2016 05:55 PM
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Credit: Facebook (2)

Citing what he termed a “serious problem” of officer-involved shootings, President Barack Obama said Thursday that he and First Lady Michelle Obama share “the anger, frustration, and grief that so many Americans are feeling” after two black men were shot dead by police in separate incidents Tuesday and Wednesday.

“All Americans should be deeply troubled by the fatal shootings of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, Minnesota,” the president said in a statement posted to Facebook.

While the president said he was “constrained in commenting on the particular facts” of either case, he applauded the U.S. Department of Justice’s decision to open a civil rights investigation in Baton Rouge. Separately, the Justice Department said through a spokesman that it will “continue to monitor” the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension investigation into Castile’s death there, and “stands ready to provide assistance.”

“But regardless of the outcome of such investigations, what’s clear is that these fatal shootings are not isolated incidents,” Obama said in his statement. “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.”

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“To admit we’ve got a serious problem in no way contradicts our respect and appreciation for the vast majority of police officers who put their lives on the line to protect us every single day,” the statement continued. “It is to say that, as a nation, we can and must do better to institute the best practices that reduce the appearance or reality of racial bias in law enforcement.”

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Castile, 32, was fatally shot Wednesday during a traffic stop in the St. Paul suburb in front of his girlfriend and a child, in an incident whose graphic, blood-stained images were streamed on Facebook Live. Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton responded by calling for a federal investigation.

Sterling, 37, was fatally shot a day earlier by police outside of a convenience store, in an incident that also was captured on camera on cellphone video.

“Even as officials continue to look into this week’s tragic shootings, we also need communities to address the underlying fissures that lead to these incidents, and to implement those ideas that can make a difference,” Obama said, referencing the Task Force on 21st Century Policing convened two years ago by the White House that brought together police, activists and community leaders.

“That’s how we’ll keep our communities safe,” he said. “And that’s how we can start restoring confidence that all people in this great nation are equal before the law.”

“In the meantime, all Americans should recognize the anger, frustration, and grief that so many Americans are feeling – feelings that are being expressed in peaceful protests and vigils. Michelle and I share those feelings.”

“Rather than fall into a predictable pattern of division and political posturing, let’s reflect on what we can do better,” he said. “Let’s come together as a nation, and keep faith with one another, in order to ensure a future where all of our children know that their lives matter.”