Fresh accusations of excessive force by US police after two fatal shootings

A civil rights investigation has started after a video emerged showing Alton Sterling being shot by two police officers

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Protesters congregate at N. Foster Dr. and Fairfields Ave., the location of the Triple S convenience store in Baton Rouge. Image: Gerald Herbert / AP/Press Association Images

There are fresh concerns about excessive force used by police against mostly black victims after two fatal shootings in the US.

Last night, a man was fatally shot by police in the Falcon Heights suburb of St Paul, Minnesota. He has been named as 32-year-old Philando Castile.

Footage of the aftermath of the shooting was captured and streamed online by the victim's girlfriend who was in the passenger seat, BBC reports.

In the video, she said: "We got pulled over for a busted tail light in the back.

"He's licensed to carry. He was trying to get out his ID and wallet out of his pocket, and he let the officer know that he had a firearm and he was reaching for his wallet. The officer just shot him in his arm."

The victim is shown bleeding and slumping over in his seat.

The latest shooting comes only days after Alton Sterling's death was filmed on the mobile phone of onlooker and activist Arthur Reed, who was just metres away as two white police officers tried to arrest the 37-year-old.

Mr Sterling, a father of five who had been arrested a number of times before, had been selling CDs outside a convenience store in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Police say they had been sent to the store at 12.35am on Tuesday after an anonymous caller told them that Mr Sterling had threatened someone with a gun.

In the phone footage, the two officers pinned Mr Sterling to the ground, someone yelled "He's got a gun! Gun!" before gunfire erupted.

According to the area's coroner, Dr William Clark, Mr Sterling died from multiple bullet wounds to his chest and back.

"Horrible tragedy"

Baton Rouge Police Chief Carl Dabadie Jr said that Mr Sterling had been armed but the circumstances which led to him being shot were still unclear.

He described the shooting as a "horrible tragedy", telling reporters: "Like you, there is a lot that we do not understand. And at this point, like you, I am demanding answers." 

The two officers - Blane Salamoni, with four years' experience, and Howie Lake II with three years - have been placed on administrative leave, as is standard policy.

It is not known whether one or both fired their guns or how many times.

Baton Rouge Police said the officers had been wearing bodycams but that these had become dislodged during the scuffle.

Police said the cameras and other evidence - dashcam and shop CCTV - had been handed to the US Justice Department, which has started a civil rights investigation into the incident.

According to the owner of the convenience store, Abdullah Muflahi, Mr Sterling had been confused about why he was being arrested.

Mr Muflahi said he saw Mr Sterling being thrown on top of a car bonnet and he could hear him asking: "What did I do wrong?"

The 28-year-old store owner, who also recorded the shooting on his phone, said he never saw Mr Sterling with a gun but saw a police officer pull a gun out of Mr Sterling's pocket after the shooting.

Hundreds of people protested against the shooting on Tuesday night and into Wednesday, with Mr Sterling's family calling for the police chief to step down.

Edmond Jordan, a lawyer for Mr Sterling's family, said he "was not reaching for a weapon".

"He looks like a man that was actually fighting for his life."