Police in North Miami, Florida, are facing a firestorm of criticism after an officer shot and injured an unarmed black therapist who works with disabled people as he lay on the ground with his hands raised in the air.
The shooting, which occurred on Monday, was apparently not captured on camera, but the wounded man's attorney released footage of the moments before and after the incident on Wednesday.
According to local news reports, 47-year-old therapist Charles Kinsey was helping his patient, a 23-year-old autistic man, when police in the Miami suburb responded to call about a suicidal man in the street with a gun.
When police arrived, Kinsey — trying to show he was unarmed — laid down on his back and put his hands out into the air above him. A cellphone video shows Kinsey lying on the pavement while his patient sits cross-legged next to him holding some sort of object in his hands.
Kinsey told Miami news broadcaster WSVN that the object, which he said was a toy truck, was apparently mistaken for a handgun.
"I was really more worried about him 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."
His attempt at defusing the situation failed. One officer fired three shots with an assault rifle, hitting Kinsey once in the leg. Assistant Police Chief Neal Cuevas told the Miami Herald that the shots came after the autistic man failed to comply with police orders.
North Miami police spokeswoman Natalie Buissereth said in a statement that "arriving officers attempted to negotiate with the two men on the scene, one of whom was later identified as suffering from autism… At some point during the on-scene negotiation, one of the responding officers discharged his weapon."
Kinsey claims that when he asked the officer why he opened fire, the cop responded, "I don't know." He says that after he was shot, the cops flipped him over, handcuffed him, and left him like that for 20 minutes until medical help arrived. He was hospitalized and later released.
In the second video, Kinsey is sprawled across the pavement, surrounded by cops. A bystander can be heard asking, "Why did they shoot the black boy and not the fat boy?"
The incident occurred in the wake of controversial shootings of black men by police in Louisiana and Minnesota that sparked protests nationwide in recent weeks. Last January, following another spate of police killings of unarmed black individuals, North Miami police were heavily criticized for using mugshots of black men for target practice.
The Miami Herald reports that investigation into the incident this week has been turned over to the Miami-Dade County State Attorney's Office.
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