Cops shoot black man helping patient

Therapist from Miami group home was trying to calm patient with autism when he was hit

MIAMI • A black man has said the police in North Miami, Florida, shot him as he tried to help a patient with autism who had run away from the group home where he works.

Mr Charles Kinsey, 47, who identified himself as a caretaker of the patient, was on a city street with the patient earlier this week when officers arrived, a lawyer for Mr Kinsey said. When the officers drew their weapons, Mr Kinsey told them there was no need for firearms, lay down in the middle of the street and tried to explain what had happened, the lawyer said.

"All he has is a toy truck - a toy truck," Mr Kinsey said, according to video obtained by the Miami television station WSVN. "I am a behaviour therapist at a group home," he added. The video shows him trying to calm the patient, urging him to sit and to lie down.

But the officers opened fire, and Mr Kinsey was shot in the leg.

The North Miami police did not immediately respond to phone and e-mail messages seeking comment about the incident on Monday.

North Miami police chief Gary Eugene, who held a news conference on Thursday, did not identify the officer who fired the shot and said an investigation would be led by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

Mr Eugene said officers were responding to a 911 call of a person who was suicidal and that no gun was recovered at the scene.

"The law requires us to gather every fact and resolve every question," he said, but he took no questions from reporters.

In a preliminary statement on Tuesday, the North Miami Police Department said officers had responded to a call about "an armed male suspect threatening suicide". "Arriving officers attempted to negotiate with the two men on the scene, one of whom was later identified as suffering from autism," the statement said. "At some point during the on-scene negotiation, one of the responding officers discharged his weapon, striking the employee" of a care facility.

The video shows Mr Kinsey in a T-shirt and shorts with his back on the ground and his hands in the air. Seated next to him on a street is another man, who Mr Kinsey says is the patient he was trying to help.

Despite Mr Kinsey's attempt to defuse the situation, officers fired multiple shots, one of them striking his leg, another of his lawyers, Mr Hilton Napoleon, said.

"He asked the police officer, 'Why did you shoot me?' He told my client, 'I don't know'," Mr Napoleon said.

Mr Clint Bower, president and chief executive of MACtown, where Mr Kinsey works, expressed frustration at how the police responded, but praised Mr Kinsey for his actions.

"Needless to say, after viewing the video, my employee Charles Kinsey, a behavioural support professional, is a hero. He saved the 24- year-old young man with autism from being shot," Mr Bower said in an e-mail on Wednesday. "He put his own life at risk, which is evident in the video."

NEW YORK TIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 23, 2016, with the headline 'Cops shoot black man helping patient'. Print Edition | Subscribe