Unarmed Black Man Shot by Police While Helping His Autistic Patient

UPDATE: 10:46 p.m. ET July 21, 2016


Since Monday’s shooting of Charles Kinsey, North Miami police and investigators have not been forthcoming with information. In a news conference Thursday evening, John Rivera, who heads ofthe Miami-Dade Police Benevolent Association, said Kinsey “did everything right.” Anunidentified officer fired three shots from an assault rifle because he thought the 23-year-old autistic man would cause Kinsey harm, Riviera said. Oneof the bullets hit Kinsey in the leg. But, hispatient was not injured.

Officers were responding to a 911 call that a man was in the street with a gun threatening to kill himself.The autistic man was holding a toy truck, which the officers said they thought was a weapon. Kinsey said when he followed orders and went to the ground, he repeatedly told officers not to shoot as he was unarmed.Rivera said North Miami police couldn’t hear him, and he didn’t know how far the police were from Kinsey.

The officer, who said he missed his shot, was “decorated” and was a member of the city’s SWAT team, according to Rivera. Crisis intervention training is not required for North Miami officers. It is not clear if the officer received training. He is currently on administrative leave while an investigation takes place, according to The Miami Herald.

ORIGINAL STORY: July 21, 2016

While attempting to help his 23-year-old patient with autism, Charles Kinsey, a caregiver of people with disabilities, was shot by North Miami police. Cellphone video released Wednesday clearly shows he had no weapon, was on the ground with his hands in the air and was communicating with police moments before he was shot in the leg.

“When I went to the ground, I’m going to the ground just like this here with my hands up,” Kinsey told WSVN Channel-7 from his hospital bed, “and I am 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.'”

The”autistic guy,” referred to as “Rinaldo”by Kinsey in the video, wandered away from a group home and onto the street on Monday. As his caregiver, Kinsey sought to bring him back.

North Miami Assistant Police Chief Neal Cuevas said officers received a 911 call that a man was in the street with a gun threatening to kill himself.

Apparently, the cops may have thought a toy truck was a gun, though Kinsey said he told officers as they approached that the toy was not a weapon, and he complied and went to the ground with his hands up.

Cellphone video obtained by Kinsey’s attorney Hilton Napoleonshows the incident prior to the shooting:

In the video, Kinsey can be heard instructing his patient to be calm as the police approach: “Rinaldo, please be still, Rinaldo. Sit down, Rinaldo. Lay on your stomach.”

According to The Miami Herald:

“[The police officers] responded to Northeast 127th Street and about 14th Avenue and began barking orders. When the autistic man didn’t comply, an officer fired three times, striking Kinsey once in the leg. He was transported to Jackson Memorial Hospital.”

It was not clear why the officer’s three shots missed his target entirely and hit Kinsey instead.

Howard Simon, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida said in a statement:

“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.”

Assistant Police Chief Neal Cuevas said the investigation has been turned over to the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office.

“I was really more worried about [the patient] than myself,” Kinsey said. “I was thinking as long as I have my hands up they’re not going to shoot me. This is what I’m thinking; they’re not going to shoot me. Wow, was I wrong.”

Kinsey said that when he was shot his life flashed before his eyes; his first thought was his family.

After being injured by the officer’s firearm, he asked him a question:

“‘Sir, why did you shoot me'” Kinsey said. “And his words to me were, ‘I don’t know.'”

Police Training and Racial Bias

“Across the thin blue line: Police officers and racial bias in the decision to shoot,”a study published in The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in 2007, may shed light on why the officer shot Kinsey.

Based on video simulations of armed and unarmed confrontations, the study compared national police officers, Denver police officers and Denver community members in terms of the speed and accuracy in which they made a simulated decision to shoot, or not shoot, Black and white people (targets). Researchers found officers outperformed community members on a number of areas, including overall speed and accuracy.

However, both police officers and community members exhibited racial bias against Black targets.

Graphic byMother Jones; source: The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2007

According to the study,officers serving in heavily populated communities also showed greater anti-Black bias in their reaction times.Based upon the 2010 Census, North Miami has approximately 58,786 residents and is predominantly Black at 58.9 percent. The rest of the population is 27.1 percent Latino, 12.4 percent white, 1.7 percent Asian and less than 1 percent Native American.

The researchers concluded effective training could curtail racial bias, and cause a decrease in tendencies to shoot:

“The data suggest that the officers’ training and/or expertise may improve their overall performance (yielding faster responses, greater sensitivity and reduced tendencies to shoot) and decrease racial bias in decision outcomes.”

Fear of Black Men

In a reflective column by NPR’s Gene Demby titled“The Fear Of Black Men In America: How It Feels To Be A Problem,”Demby stated that fear of Black men is “one of our society’s greatest givens.”

“The notion that Black men are dangerous is one of our country’s foundational, organizing principles,” Demby explained. “The omnipresence of those notions makes them invisible, sanctioned and cosigned by people who don’t know better and a whole lot of people who should.The pseudoscience that props it up gets its regular updates, as might the particularsaround what constitutes a sign of menace. Whatever the moment, it remains one of our society’s great givens.”

The hashtag #BlackLivesMatter began calling attention to the killings of Black males after the death of Trayvon Martin. The movement grew, resulting in protests of the police-related deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner and Freddie Gray, to name a few, and most recently Alton Sterling and Philando Castile.

Following the killings of law enforcement officers in Baton Rouge and Dallas this month, many were quick to blame the violence on Black Lives Matter.

Related Story: Obama’s Call for Unity Ignored Following Latest Cop Killings

The White House responded to an online petition created this month, under the “We the People” platform, that demanded Black Lives Matter be designated as a “terror group.”

The White House respondedthat it plays no role “in designating domestic terror organizations,” nor does the U.S. government “generate a list of domestic terror organizations.”

Black Lives Matter released a statement on Wednesday in response to the public ridicule. It states, in part:

“This movement has never called for the execution of law enforcement officers. Never. Still, many want to place the blame at our feet. As those who stand with, or are ourselves, the victims of police violence, we know all too well the deep sense of loss that a community feels when they lose a loved one.

“And yet, we see great hypocrisy in the attempts to blame this movement for violence against the police. When police are killed, there is public and national mourning, attempts to strengthen laws to ensure their lives. There are convictions of the people who caused their deaths.”

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