An unarmed therapist, who had his hands in the air as he lay on his back on the ground attempting to calm an autistic patient in distress, was shot in the leg by a trigger-happy cop.
Police in North Miami, Florida, responded to an emergency 911 call of a man with a gun who was threatening to commit suicide — but behavioral therapist Charles Kinsey told WSVN-TV he believes the caller likely mistook the autistic patient’s toy truck for a firearm.
After the autistic man ran away from a group home, Kinsey was summoned to calm him. In cellphone video that went viral Wednesday, Kinsey can be seen lying on his back with his arms stretched straight above his head in the air as he counsels the autistic man sitting on the pavement next to him, toy truck in hand — as police train their rifles at the pair from behind a patrol car.
Kinsey told WSVN-TV he repeatedly explained the situation to the rifle-wielding officers — apparently to no avail.
“When I went to the ground, I’m going to the ground just like this here with my hands up,” Kinsey, stretching his arms stiffly above his head, as he recounted events for the news outlet from his hospital bed, “and I’m laying down here, just like this, and I’m telling them again, ‘Sir, there is no need for firearms. I’m unarmed, he’s an autistic guy. He got a toy truck in his hand.’”
In video footage, Kinsey clearly states, “All he has is a toy truck. A toy truck. I am a behavior therapist at a group home.”
But, as officers kept their rifles aimed directly at the pair, Kinsey tried to calm the autistic man out of fear he would be shot for any sudden movements perceived by the cops as a threat.
“Rinaldo, please be still, Rinaldo,” Kinsey begs the distraught patient on video. “Sit down, Rinaldo. Lay on your stomach.”
For a few minutes, the unnecessary standoff continues in this way, when suddenly and just as inexplicably, one of the officers shot Kinsey, hitting him in the leg.
“I’m like this right here, and when he shot me, it was so surprising,” Kinsey told WSVN. “It was like a mosquito bite, and when it hit me, I’m like, I still got my hands in the air, and I said, ‘No,’ I just got shot! And I’m saying to them, ‘Sir, why did you shoot me?’ and his words to me, he said,
‘I don’t know.’”
Even still, as he noted, the officers rushed him, flipped Kinsey onto his stomach, and handcuffed his wrists behind his back.
Given obviously heightened tensions between civilians and law enforcement recently over several highly questionable shootings by police, and the murders of several officers, Kinsey is undoubtedly lucky to be alive.
Baffled over the shooting, Kinsey explained during those anxious moments, his primary concern was the autistic patient’s safety.
“I was really more worried about him than myself. I was thinking as long as I have my hands up … they’re not going to shoot me,” he said. “This is what I’m thinking, they’re not going to shoot me. Wow, was I wrong.”
Though the moment of the shooting wasn’t captured on video, Kinsey emphasized his hands remained outstretched the entire time.
As appalling as being shot without explanation was, Kinsey said the officers’ handling of the aftermath upset him most.
“They flipped me over, and I’m faced down on the ground, with cuffs on, waiting on the rescue squad to come. I’d say about 20 minutes it took the rescue squad to get there. And I was … bleeding — I mean bleeding — and I was like, Wow.”
From his bedside, Kinsey’s wife expressed gratitude her husband wasn’t killed:
“Right now, I am just grateful he is alive, and he is able to tell his story.”
The behavioral therapist — whose only goal is to help people — remains perplexed over the shooting.
“My life flashed in front of me,” he recalled. “When he hit me, the first thing I’m thinking — I’m thinking about my family.”
According to WSVN, an organization Kinsey belongs to called the Circle of Brotherhood, which works to solve community issues, congregated in front of the North Miami Police Department to demand answers — including whether the officer who shot the therapist will face disciplinary action.
Local ABC affiliate WPLG reported the officer has been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation — meaning, he receives a paid vacation while his victim recovers from physical and emotional trauma.
Hilton Napoleon, Kinsey’s attorney, is justifiably furious.
“There’s no justification for shooting an unarmed person who’s talking to you and telling you that they don’t have a gun, and that they’re a mental health counselor,” he asserted.
Though the officer’s name has yet to be released, according to WSVN, the State Attorney is now investigating the shooting, as well.
But one glaring detail must be addressed, as well: If the officer wasn’t able to provide an explanation for pulling the trigger on an unarmed man, perhaps he has no business, whatsoever, pointing a gun at anyone — much less from behind a badge of State authority.
As the media and politicians constantly parrot the fictitious narrative of a ‘war on cops,’ paranoia among officers will undoubtedly cause an increase in these unjustifiable shootings. In turn, an already outraged public will return in kind, as seen by shootings of officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge recently.
This tense division — as officers trained to view the public as a threat, and the public fears for their lives during even standard interaction with the now trigger-happy police — won’t easily be bridged until police accountability becomes the standard.
Legislation like the Blue Lives Matter Act, which comes up for congressional deliberation following the summer recess, only widens the divide between police and the public they’re putatively tasked with protecting. Should the legislation pass, killing an officer would be considered a hate crime — in essence, the occupation of law enforcement officer would be a protected class unto itself.
While violence from either side should not be tolerated or condoned, we’ve reached the point in the once-United States where if we aren’t quickly honest about this cycle, it simply will not end.
And the shooting of an unarmed behavioral therapist in the act of counseling an already-distraught autistic man does nothing to quell public outrage — or lessen the chances this cycle will continue to escalate unabated.