By Francisco Alvarado, Washington Post
Charles Kinsey with his hands raised, trying to protect his autistic patient
NORTH MIAMI, Fla. — Authorities said Thursday that they were investigating a shooting Monday in which a police officer shot a man who had said his hands were empty and raised at the time.
While the shooting was not captured on camera, a recording showing moments before the gunshots depicted a man lying on his back on the ground, his hands in the air, while another man sits near him cross-legged.
“All he has is a toy truck in his hand,” Charles Kinsey, the man lying on his back, yells at two police officers standing behind telephone poles just a few dozen feet away on Northeast 14th Avenue. “That’s all it is. There is no need for guns.”
Police said they only learned later that Kinsey worked at a care facility and that the man sitting near him was autistic.
After the recording stopped, one of the officers fired three shots, hitting Kinsey at least once in one leg.
“When it hit me, I’m like, I still got my hands in the air,” Kinsey, an African American, said in an interview from his hospital bed with WSVN TV.
Police have not said why the officer fired, although a police union representative said Thursday that the officer, who has not been identified and who has been placed on administrative leave, was aiming for the man with autism — apparently thinking he was armed — and was trying to protect Kinsey.
In moments recorded during the encounter Monday, Kinsey can be heard trying to calm the man with autism sitting next to him. That man, who also was not identified, had apparently wandered away from a group home where Kinsey said he works as a behavioral therapist.
The recording, along with a second video, taken after the gunshots and showing Kinsey and the man with autism being handcuffed, was the latest in the seemingly unending stream of violent encounters between police and black men captured on camera and propelled into national headlines.
It arrives as the country is still on edge over issues of race and law enforcement. Recordings of fatal police encounters and their aftermaths in Louisiana and Minnesota this month helped revive protests over how law enforcement officer use deadly force, while the deadly shootings of police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge have spurred further fears among officers over the threats they face on the job.
The videos of last Monday’s incident in North Miami spread wildly online Wednesday night and Thursday, and state officials said they had launched an investigation. But key questions remain unanswered, including whether the officer who fired had actually been aiming at the man with autism still sitting up in the street.
According to Kinsey, the officer who fired the shots seemed confused by what happened. “‘Sir, why did you shoot me?’” Kinsey recalled asking the officer. “He said, ‘I don’t know.’”
Police in North Miami, a city of 62,000 people between Miami and Fort Lauderdale, have offered relatively few details about the encounter. Gary Eugene, the city’s police chief, who was appointed to the position just a month before the shooting, said his department is committed to an open probe.
“I realize there are many questions about what happened Monday night,” Eugene said during a news conference Thursday. “We all have questions. … I assure you, we’ll get all the answers.”
Eugene said he had asked the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) to investigate the shooting, and a spokeswoman for that agency confirmed Thursday morning that it had launched an investigation. “Bringing in an outside agency shows our commitment to transparency and objectivity in a very sensitive matter,” Eugene said.