WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressional Progressive Caucus Co-Chairs Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) and Keith Ellison (D-MN) today urged the Department of Justice to conduct a thorough investigation after two black men, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, were shot to death by police officers this week. The shootings continue a long trend of racially tinged police violence that has come to the forefront of national discourse through the increasing prevalence of personal video cameras.

“I am sickened and appalled at the images of Americans dying at the hands of the very people sworn to serve and protect them,” Rep. Grijalva said. “Police officers are officers of the peace – they are armed as a last resort when their own lives or the lives of innocent civilians are at stake. Nobody should feel empowered to act as judge, jury and executioner without any semblance of due process.

“I urge the Department of Justice to act quickly not just to investigate the incidents that took place this week, but also the alarming trend of police shootings in this country that happen without convictions or charges for those responsible. The public has a right to know what is being done to uphold accountability. We have a right to demand answers when time after time, black people are targeted by police officers’ guns. The credibility of our law enforcement is on the line and so is the credibility of our nation’s policies, which have neglected impoverished communities of color for generations.”

“#TrayvonMartin. #MikeBrown. #TamirRice. #KyamLivingston. #WalterScot. #SandraBland. #EricGarner.  #RekiaBoyd. #LaquanMcDonald. #TanishaAnderson. #JamarClark. #AltonSterling. #PhilandoCastile. And the list goes on... and on…,” Rep. Ellison said.

“We live a world where certain Americans live in fear that their name will become a hashtag. It is not enough to say “Black Lives Matter”. It’s time to make the system mean it. We need immediate and meaningful accountability and justice. Officers who use excessive force cannot assume immunity as they routinely do today. We need one standard of justice for all. I join my colleague Representative Betty McCollum in calling for an immediate investigation by the Department of Justice.

“The video showing the immediate aftermath of the shooting is horrific. Lavish “Diamond” Reynolds acted heroically and with remarkable presence of mind when she live-streamed the incident and calmly narrated the events as they unfolded. She did this as Philando lay dying beside her and with her four-year old daughter in the vehicle. 

“Although the investigation is just beginning, I ask the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension to release any and all videos related to Philando Castile's shooting as soon as possible. The public deserves transparency in the pursuit of truth and justice. I also call on all prosecutorial authorities to reject the use of the grand jury and to make themselves personally and directly accountable for charging decisions. In the case of officer-involved shootings, it is not a trusted tool and will undermine confidence in any decision.

“Sadly, we in the Twin Cities have been here before – most recently with Jamar Clark. Nothing we do now will bring Philando Castile back. But justice must prevail. Not just because our community will demand it, but because Philando deserves it.”