Officer says shooting of therapist was an accident
Shooting | Autistic patient, who appeared to be a threat, was the intended target
by Lynde Langdon
Posted 7/21/16, 04:52 pm
UPDATE (7/22, 10:45 a.m.): A North Miami police officer who shot an unarmed man lying in the street said he was aiming for the man’s autistic patient, a police union representative said. A cellphone video of the incident shows the patient, a Hispanic male, was sitting in the middle of the road and not answering the commands of his therapist, Charles Kinsey, or officers, who were responding to a report of a man with a gun. In the video, Kinsey can be heard shouting that the patient has a toy truck. John Rivera, the head of the Miami Police Benevolent Association, said the officer, who has not been identified, went public with his explanation to calm fears that have arisen in recent weeks after the high-profile police shootings of African-American men.
OUR EARLIER STORY: A Florida therapist whom police shot as he was trying to calm his autistic client said he thought he was safe because he was lying on the ground with his hands up.
“Wow, was I wrong,” Charles Kinsey told WSVN-TV from his hospital room, where he is recovering from a gunshot wound to the leg.
The 47-year-old African-American man from North Miami was trying to get his 27-year-old patient to return to a facility he had wandered from. The patient was sitting in the middle of the street playing with a toy truck.
A bystander captured the moments before the shooting on video.
“Lay down on your stomach,” Kinsey told the patient.
“Shut up!” responded the young man, who was sitting cross-legged in the road.
“He has a toy truck in his hand! A toy truck!” Kinsey told officers, who had their guns drawn. Kinsey said he was more worried about his patient than himself.
An officer, who has not been identified to the media, later fired three times and struck Kinsey in the leg.
At a news conference today, North Miami Police Chief Gary Eugene said the Florida Department of Law Enforcement is investigating this “very sensitive matter.” He declined to identify the officer involved in the shooting.
“I realize there are many questions about what happened on Monday night. You have questions, the community has questions, we as a city, we as a member of this police department and I also have questions,” he said. He added the officers on the scene were responding to reports of a man with a gun threatening to kill himself, but no gun was found.
The shooting comes amid weeks of violence involving police and protesters. The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida issued a statement today calling for police departments around the country to review their use-of-force policies.
“This is the latest in what seems like an endless litany of police shootings of individuals who should not have been shot,” the statement read. “Of the 598 people killed by U.S. police this year, 88 were unarmed. Mr. Kinsey or his patient could very easily have become number 89.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.