The story of a North Miami Police officer shooting a behavioral therapist just keeps getting worse. When we covered the story earlier in the day, a statement attributed to the officer made it sound like therapist Charles Kinsley was hit with a negligent discharge.
We have an autistic man (Rinaldo) who is clearly oblivious to the world around him, holding a shiny sliver object in his hand. While you may be able to mistake the truck itself for the slide of a handgun, it’s also readily apparent by the way that he is holding the object that it does not have any sort of a grip. I’m no detective, but this is what my friends in law enforcement might call “a clue.”
But this autistic man isn’t a cipher the officers have to figure out entirely on their own. Mr. Kinsley, Rinaldo’s behavior therapist at his group home, is with him, laying on his back (no doubt following police commands) with his hands in the air, calmly explaining to officers what is really going on.
There’s every reason for an officer to make a cautious approach here to get a better look and verify that the non-gun in Rinaldo’s hand truly is a toy truck, and to call the incident to a close.
But that’s not what happened.
A shot rings out.
Mr. Kinsley is hit in the leg.
Officers then make their approach and cuff both Rinaldo and Mr. Kinsley.
If Mr. Kinsley’s claim is true and the officer’s response to Mr. Kinsey’s obvious question of, “Why did you shoot me?” is the answer of, “I don’t know,” then it seems we’ve got a very serious training problem here.
The Daily News is now reporting that the shooting was not accidental. Incredibly, the officer fired at least three intentional shots at the autistic man holding a toy truck even after Kinsley explained to the officers that his patient was autistic and holding a toy truck, not a gun.
Compounding the error incompetent officer not only fired on a man who clearly wasn’t a threat, he hit the man he was trying to “save.”
North Miami Police Chief Gary Eugene, who was only sworn into office July 12, has refused to name the police officer who shot an unarmed black group home therapist as he lay on the ground with his hands in the air after trying to comfort his escaped autism patient.
‘I realize there are many questions about what happened Monday night,’ Eugene said at the Thursday afternoon press conference. ‘You have questions, the community has questions, we as a city, and as a member of this police department, I also have questions. I assure you, we will get all the answers.’
Eugene refused to identify or answer any questions about the shooting officer who hit Charles Kinsey in the leg with a bullet as the therapist lay on his back with his hands up, asking officers not to shoot, and assuring them his patient only had a toy truck, not a gun.
On Wednesday, John Rivera, a union official said the officer was aiming for the autistic man, not the therapist, according to the New York Daily News.
Cell phone video of the incident showed the autistic man, yelling ‘Shut up! Shut up!’ The union official said that the man was perceived as a threat. According to the Miami Herald, the officer thought that Kinsey was in danger.
The police chief did say that officers responded to the scene under the impression that there was a man with a gun, who was threatening to kill himself, and that witnesses and 911 callers had said as such. ‘Officers responded with that threat in mind,’ he said.
He stressed that no gun was ever recovered.
After shooting Kinsley in an attempt to “save” him from a loaded semi-automatic toy truck, the officer then handcuffed him.
Let’s give the officer—whom we now know is a member of the North Miami SWAT team, thanks to John Rivera of Miami-Dade’s Police Benevolent Association—the benefit of the doubt, and assume that he didn’t hear Mr. Kinsley explain that his autistic patient was holding a toy truck. Let’s give the officer the benefit of the doubt, and assume that officer really thought that Mr. Kinsley’s life was being threatened by an man with a gun.
If that is indeed the case, why did this SWAT officer take a position that would put Kinsley in the line of fire? Why did this officer fire a shot with his weapon with the Kinsley’s patient in line with Kinsley, when SWAT officers should know that both handgun and rifle bullets can and will overpenetrate and put Mr. Kinsley’s life at a high degree of risk, even if he made the shot? Moving just 15-20 yards to the left or right (if allowed by terrain and obstacles) would give him a much safer shot.
Why did the officer fire from a position so unstable that he couldn’t hit his target even once in three shots? He clearly exceeded his level of competence, which is especially terrifying when you consider that SWAT officers, even more than that patrol officers, need to know their competencies with their weapon systems due to the high-risk nature of their work.
Put bluntly, this story looked bad this morning when it sounded like it was a negligent discharge shooting.
Now that the police are telling us that this was an incompetently executed intentional shooting, it’s utterly terrifying.