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I think I saw the moment Philando Castile died this week. It was on the video his girlfriend made after he was shot by a police officer. He was still alive when the video began, his girlfriend talking into the camera while blood seeped across his chest. Her 4-year-old daughter in the back seat, trying to reassure her mother everything would be all right. The police officer still at the window of the car, a gun in his hand. And then Castile died, and his girlfriend's calm voice suddenly changed as she realized what had happened. I saw it. Many of us did, as it splashed across the internet.
Earlier in the week, I saw Alton Sterling die, too, in another video. He was lying on the ground, two police officers holding him down. The gun was fired. His hand reached up behind his back, I think, and then it stopped, and I knew he must be dead. I watched two men die, and then on Friday morning, I woke up to the sound of bullets raining death on the streets of Dallas. And all day long, I saw the images on TV screens - the chaos in the street after a sniper took out his anger at police and white people, aiming his gun and killing five law enforcement officers - five men who had been watching over a peaceful demonstration.
These are not pretend deaths on a violent TV show or video game, where the blood may look real, but isn't. No, this was real death, where the breath leaves the body, and the person someone loved is gone forever. These deaths fill me with sadness and anger and fear and dread - dread because I felt sure it would not be the last time I would be a witness to a violent death. It seems inevitable that it will happen again and that it will be caught on video. Violence has become the norm. We grieve. We lay flowers on the spot where the dead have fallen. We protest. We demand justice, but the violence doesn't end.
This has to stop, Dallas Police Chief David Brown said about the divisiveness between our police and our citizens. But no one seems to know how to stop it, or maybe we're not willing to. Maybe we've become too used to it. The events of this week could shock us into changing, or they could just fade into memory until the next time.
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