Obama breaks silence on the fatal shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile

Minneapolis Shooting: Philando Castile's Death Sparks Outrage

President Obama broke his silence Thursday on the fatal police shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile over the past two days, saying he is "deeply troubled."

"We've seen such tragedies far too many times, and our hearts go out to the families and communities who've suffered such a painful loss," Obama said in a statement posted to Facebook Thursday.

Sterling, 37, was pinned to the ground and shot in the chest by two white police officers outside a convenience store in Baton Rouge, Louisiana on Tuesday. The shooting was captured on video by multiple bystanders.

Protestors started to gather at the scene shortly after the shooting and social media users around the world began tweeting and sharing the violent video.

RELATED: Alton Sterling protests

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People protest after Alton Sterling, 37, was shot and killed during an altercation with two Baton Rouge police officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, U.S. on July 5, 2016. REUTERS/Bryn Stole
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Thirty-two-year-old Castile was fatally shot by a police officer in front of his girlfriend and a 4-year-old child, during a routine traffic stop near Minneapolis on Wednesday evening. Castile was reportedly pulled over for a broken taillight, and had informed the officer that he was carrying a weapon, which he was licensed to carry.

Castile allegedly informed the officer he was armed, but was shot when he reached for his wallet. His girlfriend, who was in the passenger seat, streamed the bloody aftermath live to Facebook. The video was shared and viewed thousands of times and sparked immediate outrage.

RELATED: Philando Castile shot by police and live-streamed to Facebook

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A screenshot of the live video shot by Lavish Reynolds and posted to Facebook after police shot Philando Castile. 
A screenshot of the live video shot by Diamond Reynolds and posted to Facebook after police shot Philando Castile. 
A screenshot of the live video shot by Diamond Reynolds and posted to Facebook after police shot Philando Castile. 
A profile photo uploaded to Philando Castile's Facebook page. 
A profile photo uploaded to Philando Castile's Facebook page. 
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"What's clear is that these fatal shootings are not isolated incidents," Obama's statement reads. "They are symptomatic of the broader challenges within our criminal justice system, the racial disparities that appear across the system year after year, and the resulting lack of trust that exists between law enforcement and too many of the communities they serve."

Read President Obama's full statement below:

All Americans should be deeply troubled by the fatal shootings of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, Minnesota. We've seen such tragedies far too many times, and our hearts go out to the families and communities who've suffered such a painful loss.

Although I am constrained in commenting on the particular facts of these cases, I am encouraged that the U.S. Department of Justice has opened a civil rights investigation in Baton Rouge, and I have full confidence in their professionalism and their ability to conduct a thoughtful, thorough, and fair inquiry.

But regardless of the outcome of such investigations, what's clear is that these fatal shootings are not isolated incidents. They are symptomatic of the broader challenges within our criminal justice system, the racial disparities that appear across the system year after year, and the resulting lack of trust that exists between law enforcement and too many of the communities they serve.

To admit we've got a serious problem in no way contradicts our respect and appreciation for the vast majority of police officers who put their lives on the line to protect us every single day. It is to say that, as a nation, we can and must do better to institute the best practices that reduce the appearance or reality of racial bias in law enforcement.

That's why, two years ago, I set up a Task Force on 21st Century Policing that convened police officers, community leaders, and activists. Together, they came up with detailed recommendations on how to improve community policing. So even as officials continue to look into this week's tragic shootings, we also need communities to address the underlying fissures that lead to these incidents, and to implement those ideas that can make a difference. That's how we'll keep our communities safe. And that's how we can start restoring confidence that all people in this great nation are equal before the law.

In the meantime, all Americans should recognize the anger, frustration, and grief that so many Americans are feeling -- feelings that are being expressed in peaceful protests and vigils. Michelle and I share those feelings. Rather than fall into a predictable pattern of division and political posturing, let's reflect on what we can do better. Let's come together as a nation, and keep faith with one another, in order to ensure a future where all of our children know that their lives matter.

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