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July 8, 2016

JCRC Saddened and Horrified by the Death of Philando Castile and Five Dallas Police Officers

Minneapolis, MN — Steve Hunegs, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas (JCRC), issued the following statement expressing our deep sadness and horror regarding the senseless death of Philando Castile on July 6, and the five Dallas police officers on July 7:

"The Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and Dakotas (JCRC) is both deeply saddened and horrified by the senseless death of Philando Castile on July 6 during a traffic stop in the Twin Cities suburb of Falcon Heights. The JCRC also condemns the murder of five Dallas police officers on July 7.

"Our hearts break for Mr. Castile, a cafeteria supervisor who worked for over a decade at the J.J. Hill Montessori Magnet School in St. Paul. The grief of his family and friends, and in particular that of his girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, who was in the car with him as they were returning from a haircut for Mr. Castile's upcoming 33rd birthday, is palpable. May the memory of Mr. Castile be for a blessing and a comfort to his loved ones.

"We also join Governor Mark Dayton, Senator Al Franken, and many others in their request that the United States Department of Justice 'begin an immediate independent federal investigation into this matter.'

"Additionally, we recognize that the July 6 shooting exists within a much larger context of lethal interactions between law enforcement and people of color. To that point, retired Judge LaJune Thomas Lange, president of the International Leadership Institute, expressed the following thoughts to us: 'We are so aware of the devastation to each family and our community. Each police department has a mandate to protect and serve the community.' We fully agree with Judge Lange (Ret.) and believe this tragedy, like the ones which came before it, must force all Americans to acknowledge the ongoing inequalities which have led to so many senseless deaths within communities of color in the United States.

"But even where there is still so much work to be done, where structural racism is demonstrably very real, it must be stated clearly that the vast majority of police officers do their jobs well and at times under difficult circumstances. Similarly, the horrific irony that five officers were murdered in Dallas – the worst single incident loss for law enforcement since 9/11 – while they protected a peaceful protest against the police should not be lost on anyone. So we see no contradiction in raising our voices in anger and sorrow against the completely unacceptable death of Philando Castile, and at the same time being grateful for the service of those who are sworn to protect all of us and who on a daily basis save entire worlds. And just as we were saddened and horrified by the death of Philando Castile, we feel the pain for the loss of the five who were murdered. Senior Cpl. Lorne Ahrens, Officer Michael Krol, Sgt. Michael J. Smith, Officer Patrick Zamarripa, and DART officer Brent Thompson, as well as the five other officers and two civilians who were injured in Dallas with equal measure. May here too their memories be for a blessing and a comfort to their families."

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As the public affairs voice of the Jewish community, the JCRC fights anti-Semitism and prejudice, advocates for Israel, provides Holocaust education, promotes tolerance and social justice, and builds bridges across the Jewish and broader communities.