Charles Kinsey shooting: Officer who shot therapist ‘was aiming for autistic patient’, say Miami police

‘Unfortunately, he missed the white male and shot Mr Kinsey by accident’

Will Worley
Friday 22 July 2016 16:54
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Unarmed black care worker shot by US police while he was calming autistic patient

Police in Miami have defended the officer who shot an unarmed behavioural therapist, saying he missed his actual target – a man with learning difficulties.

Charles Kinsey, who was looking after an autistic patient, was filmed lying on the floor with his hands in the air moments before he was shot and injured in the leg by an unidentified police officer.

John Rivera, president of the Dade County Police Benevolent Association, said video footage of the incident was “being portrayed poorly”.

“This wasn't a mistake in the sense that the officer shot the wrong guy or he thought that Kinsey was the bad guy,” Mr Rivera told CNN.

“The movement of the white individual [the autistic patient Mr Kinsey was looking after] made it look like he was going to discharge a firearm into Mr Kinsey and the officer discharged trying to strike and stop the white man and unfortunately, he missed the white male and shot Mr Kinsey by accident.”

Campaigners have criticised the shooting, saying Mr Kinsey was unarmed and cooperating with police, and pointing out it appeared obvious from the video footage that the patient did not have a gun.

“Mr Kinsey did everything right, let's be real clear about that,” Mr Rivera said. He added the officer who shot him “wishes nothing but the best for Mr Kinsey and the officer is praying for his speedy recovery as are we”.

The officer, identified only as a 30-year-old Hispanic male with four years’ police experience, has been placed on leave since the shooting. He released a statement about the incident, but stopped short of an apology. He said: “I took this job to save lives and help people.

“I did what I had to do in a split second to accomplish that and hate to hear others paint me as something I’m not.”

At a news conference on Thursday, North Miami Police Chief Gary Eugene said the investigation had been turned over to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the local state attorney. He called it a “very sensitive matter” and promised a transparent investigation.

Despite not responding to questions from the media about the incident, he assured journalists: “We will get all the answers.”

The shooting comes amid a period of extreme tension over shootings by police and shootings of police.

On Sunday, three police officers were gunned down in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Earlier in July, five officers were killed in Dallas. Both incidents are being treated by investigators as targeted ambushes.

Prior to those attacks, a black man, Alton Sterling, 37, was fatally shot during a scuffle with two white officers at a convenience store.

In Minnesota, Philando Castile, 32, who was also black, was shot to death during a traffic stop. Cellphone videos captured Mr Sterling's killing and the aftermath of Mr Castile's shooting, prompting nationwide protests over the treatment of African-Americans by police.

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