A tragic first week of July
Three days of death and a week of grief.
It began with the police killing of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. It continued with the death of Philando Castile, killed by police during a traffic stop in Falcon Heights, Minnesota. And it reached its tragic climax in Dallas after five police officers were killed by a sniper, who told police he was angry about the deaths of Sterling and Castile.
Three other shootings — in Tennessee, Missouri and Georgia — have also endangered cops this week.
People turned out in large numbers throughout the country to demonstrate against police use of force and remember the five fallen officers.
It was one of the more heart-wrenching weeks in recent American history, and much of it was recorded on the cell phones of those who witnessed it first hand.
This is what Americans saw, how they mourned and came together.
Tuesday: Alton Sterling
Sterling was killed outside a Baton Rouge, Louisiana, convenience store, an event caught on video by at least two bystanders.
The second video provided more details on the shooting.
Mourners and protesters demanded justice in the case, distraught over the death of the 37-year-old “CD man” known for selling music and videos in the store parking lot where he died.
A 911 call revealed that police responded to the scene after a homeless man claimed someone had pulled a gun on him outside the convenience store where Sterling was shot.
The usual, important but difficult conversations ensued. Many expressed outrage over yet another black man killed by those sworn to serve and protect. Some residents of the Louisiana capital would tell CNN that the city had been smoldering for years.
Wednesday: Philando Castile
Before the debates and conversations could run their usual course, another black man was killed by a police 1,200 miles north, in Falcon Heights, Minnesota. Video was also important to the story, but for a very different reason.
Shortly after St. Anthony police officer Jeronimo Yanez shot Philando Castile with his loved ones in the car with him, Castile’s fiancee, Diamond Reynolds, began live-streaming the aftermath, which included graphic images of a bloody Castile moaning in pain as he took some of his last breaths.
“I wanted it to go viral so the people could see,” Reynolds later said. “I wanted everybody in the world to see what the police do.”
Castile was pulled over for a broken taillight and told the officer he was armed before he was shot, according to Reynolds.
High-profile celebrities expressed their thoughts on the pair of shootings.
Beyonce and rapper Drake penned open letters. Jay-Z tackled police brutality with a new song, “Spiritual.”
“Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda weighed in on Twitter: “Black lives matter. Not just as a hashtag, not just in all caps, in real life.”
Castile’s family spoke to CNN at length about their lost loved one. His sister said he had a “wonderful soul,” and praised his work with children as a cafeteria supervisor. His mother said her son died because he was “just black in the wrong place.”
The two high-profile cases prompted large protests across the country.
For some in Dallas, Thursday night was their first protest. Shunkecia Lewis called it the most peaceful protest she’s ever attended, until gunshots from a sniper sent crowds scattering.
One witness who saw the gunman kill a cop told CNN he thought it looked like an execution.
Authorities identified the shooter as Micah Xavier Johnson. Dallas Police Chief David Brown said he wanted to kill white cops — and that he’d been plotting larger attacks.
A police bomb squad robot killed the gunman after a standoff with officers that lasted for hours.
By the end of the night, 12 officers were shot and five died — making it the deadliest incident for U.S. law enforcement since 9/11.
As authorities released the names of the slain officers, Dallas residents responded with an outpouring of kind acts and support for its cops.
Mourners left flags, candles, flowers, balloons and messages of support outside the city’s police headquarters.
Some people gathered outside to sing.
Others offered free hugs.
“I’m sorry for your loss,” one woman told an officer. “It’s a loss for all of us.”
To honor the fallen officers, cities around Texas and across the country lit up buildings in blue.
Reynolds, Castile’s fiancée, spoke out Friday morning after the Dallas shootings.
Through tears, she said that the day was bigger than Philando Castile, Trayvon Martin, Alton Sterling, Sandra Bland or anyone else.
“It’s about all of the families that have lost people,” she told CNN’s Chris Cuomo.
“I just want justice for everyone,” she said. “Everyone around the world. Not just for my boyfriend and the good man that he was.”
People marched in protests and prayed at vigils in much of the country throughout the weekend in cities such as Atlanta, Washington, Baton Rouge, Baltimore, Los Angeles, Boston, Dallas, Nashville, Philadelphia and San Francisco.
Though different sides have been taken, the main sentiments coming from people seems to be sadness, devastation, heartbreak and just sheer exhaustion after confronting death three days in a row.
Investigations into all three shootings are ongoing.
President Obama has cut his trip to Europe short and will join former President George W. Bush at a Tuesday memorial service to honor the five slain officers.
“There is sorrow, there is anger, there is confusion about next steps,” Obama said. “But there’s unity in recognizing that this is not how we want our communities to operate. This is not who we want to be as Americans.”