With Arms in Air, Unarmed Black Caregiver Shot by Police
'As long as I've got my hands up, they're not going to shoot me, is what I was thinking. Wow, was I wrong.'
Charles Kinsey, a black man and caregiver at a group home, was shot by police on Monday in North Miami, Florida.
"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 they're a mental health counselor."
—Hilton Napoleon, Kinsey's lawyer
Cell phone video footage released late Wednesday showed that Kinsey was lying on the ground, holding his arms in the air to show he was unarmed, and trying to help a distressed autistic patient in the moments before he was shot in the leg.
"As long as I've got my hands up, they're not going to shoot me, is what I was thinking. Wow, was I wrong," said Kinsey to local TV station WSVN from a hospital bed on Thursday.
A second video shows police flipped Kinsey over after he was shot and searched him and his patient, whose name has not been released, with long rifles.
Kinsey told reporters that he was handcuffed and left lying on the hot pavement in the aftermath of the shooting for a full 20 minutes before he was finally given medical attention and taken to a hospital, where he is still recovering.
Kinsey's lawyer, Hilton Napoleon, released both videos to the public, and the Washington Post was one of many outlets who consolidated and published the footage on Thursday:
Kinsey told WSVN in Miami that he was trying to calm an autistic patient who had just ran away from an area group home. Kinsey said he found the patient sitting in a street playing with a toy truck.
A video that accompanied the news station's online story showed a black man in a T-shirt and shorts lying on his back with his hands up next to a man, who appears to have an object in his hand.
"All he has is a truck. A toy truck. I'm a behavior therapist at a group home," a man is heard saying in the cell phone video as police officers are seen with their weapons drawn.
While lying on the ground and attempting to communicate to police that he was not a danger to them, Kinsey told WSVN that "I was more worried about [my patient] than myself."
"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 they're a mental health counselor," Napoleon told WSVN.
In a statement, Howard Simon, executive director of the ACLU of Florida, wrote that the group was "extremely disturbed" by the shooting. "Thankfully," Simon wrote, "Mr. Kinsey is alive and not more gravely injured—but had the officer's weapon been pointed just a few degrees differently, this senseless incident could have been a much greater tragedy."
Monday's shooting occurred amidst increasing public awareness of police shootings of black men and women in the U.S., and as Black Lives Matter demonstrators rally worldwide for victims of such violence.
"We have to stem the tide of violence, both nationwide and here in Florida," Simon said. "It starts with holding people accountable for their actions. There must be a thorough and independent investigation into this shooting that covers both whether officers violated internal use of deadly force policies and whether criminal charges should be brought."
According to Reuters, "The North Miami Police Department said in a statement that officers responded to a call of an armed suspect threatening suicide. Officers arrived at the scene and found an autistic man and an employee with an assist living facility."
It remains unclear why the police officer fired his gun. The officer, who was not named by the North Miami Police Department, has reportedly been placed on paid administrative leave and the investigation is being handled by the state attorney general's office.
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi is a Republican, and was recently the subject of controversy when she declined to investigate fraud claims against Trump University after receiving a personally solicited donation of $25,000 from the Donald J. Trump Foundation in 2013. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump is a vocal advocate of the police, who he recently described as "the most maltreated people in America." Bondi spoke Wednesday night at the Republican National Convention.
During a news conference Thursday, Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fl.), told reporters, "As I stand here, when you shoot a man lying on the ground with his hands up explaining to you the situation—and you shoot him anyway—something is not right with that picture, so we, as a district, are in shock."
Kinsey told reporters that while being searched for weapons, he asked the officer who shot him, "Sir, why did you shoot me?"
"His words to me," Kinsey said, were "I don't know."