Authorities say a North Miami police officer shot and wounded an autistic man’s caretaker following reports of a man threatening to shoot himself.
North Miami Assistant Police Chief Neal Cuevas told The Miami Herald that officers responded to the scene on Monday to find 47-year-old Charles Kinsey, a therapist who works with people with disabilities, trying to get his 27-year-old patient back to a facility from where he wandered.
Cuevas says police ordered Kinsey and the patient, who was sitting in the street playing with a toy truck, to lie on the ground.
Kinsey did get down and put his hands up while trying to get his patient to comply.
An officer then fired three times, striking Kinsey in the leg, Cuevas said. No weapon was found.
Kinsey’s attorney, Hilton Napoleon, provided a cellphone video to the Herald on Wednesday taken moments before the shooting. It shows Kinsey lying in the middle of the street with his hands up, asking the officers not to shoot him, while the autistic man sits next to him, yelling at him to “shut up.”
“Sir, there’s no need for firearms,” Kinsey said he told police before he was shot, according to the station. “It was so surprising. It was like a mosquito bite.”
Kinsey is black. Police haven’t released the name or race of the officer who shot him.
Howard Simon, executive director of the ACLU of Florida, issued a statement on Thursday regarding the shooting of Charles Kinsey.
Simon said, “Thankfully, Mr. Kinsey is alive and not more gravely injured — but had the officer’s weapon been pointed just a few degrees differently, this senseless incident could have been a much greater tragedy.
“This is the latest in what seems like an endless litany of police shootings of individuals who should not have been shot. Philando Castile in Minnesota, Alton Sterling in Louisiana, Vernell Bing in Jacksonville: there are too many to name them all here. 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.
“We have to stem the tide of violence, both nationwide and here in Florida. It starts with holding people accountable for their actions. There must be a thorough and independent investigation into this shooting that covers both whether officers violated internal use of deadly force policies and whether criminal charges should be brought.
“Additionally, the North Miami Police, and all local law enforcement agencies, must examine their policies when it comes to use of force and how best to respond to members of the public who have mental health issues. Great strides have been made in recent years in developing policies that help police de-escalate potentially volatile situations and bring them to an end without violence. None of them seem to have been utilized in this situation by the North Miami Police.”
“We are grateful that both Mr. Kinsey and his patient are alive, but without changes in policy and improved training of officers, we will very likely see more needless shootings and deaths at the hands of police.”
Attorney Jeff Hearne, president of the Greater Miami Chapter of the ACLU of Florida, also issued a statement.
He said, “In his press conference today, North Miami Police Chief Gary Eugene declared a commitment to transparency in this process. Transparency in this case must mean providing the public with any information about what led to the pointless shooting of an unarmed Black man lying on his back with his hands up, and why the public is only hearing about it days after it happened.
“We are calling on the North Miami Police to release any police camera footage related to the incident. Additionally, the ACLU of Florida will be submitting a public records request to review the North Miami Police’s policy on use of force and use of deadly force and determine whether it adequately protects both law enforcement and the public.
“The community deserves answers about how this happened and what will be done to keep it from happening again.”