“I don’t know.”
That’s the response the North Miami police officer gave to shooting victim Charles Kinsey, when he asked why the officer opened fire as he lay flat on the ground, hands outstretched to prove he was no threat to the police.
“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, 47, told WSVN from his hospital bed. The Miami Herald reports he suffered a bullet wound to the leg and is expected to be released from Jackson Memorial Hospital on Thursday.
Kinsey’s story is reminiscent of numerous shootings involving the police, in which an unarmed Black suspect is tragically shot and killed. Fortunately, Kinsey is still alive to tell his story, but the trauma of his experience will linger on.
As the July shooting deaths of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, five Dallas officers, and three Baton Rouge cops stays top of mind, it presents a critical conversation for national law enforcement on policing in minority communities, with an added topic of mental health disparities among African-Americans and other disenfranchised groups.
What led up to the shooting began on Monday at the MacTown Panther Group Homes, where Kinsey works as a mental health counselor. He was called outside to retrieve an autistic patient who wandered into the street to play with a toy truck.
Kinsey was just doing his job when police arrived at the scene. Officers, on the other hand, say they received a call reporting an armed man was in the street, threatening to commit suicide.
Cell phone footage released Wednesday shows Kinsey trying to de-escalate the situation, telling his patient to be still and to lie down, while locked in an unthreatening position.
“I was more worried about him than myself,” Kinsey said, according to WSVN. The autistic patient’s name hasn’t been released.
North Miami Police Department’s spokeswoman Natalie Buissereth released the following statement: “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.”
After they shot him, officers rushed Kinsey, searched his body and handcuffed him.
“They flipped me over, and I’m faced down in the ground, with cuffs on, waiting on the rescue squad to come.” Kinsey said. “I’d say about 20, about 20 minutes it took the rescue squad to get there. And I was like, bleeding — I mean bleeding and I was like, ‘Wow.’”
Kinsey’s lawyer Hilton Napoleon told WSVN he’s livid. “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,” Napoleon said. The Herald reports Kinsey and Napoleon are in settlement talks with the city of North Miami.
Police are staying mum on the incident – they haven’t released the name of the responding officer who fired at Kinsey, but have placed him on administrative leave. In response, the state attorney is looking into the investigation, WSVN reports.
There have been no reports that a gun was found near the scene, according to The Miami Herald.