After days of silence, an answer emerges on behalf of the North Miami Police Department in response to why one of their officers shot a mental health worker as he lay flat with his arms outstretched.
John Rivera, head of the Miami-Dade’s Police Benevolent Association, said the officer was actually aiming for the autistic man sitting next to Charles Kinsey, an astonishing admission, The Miami Herald reports.
“I couldn’t allow this to continue for the community’s sake,” Rivera said Thursday during a press conference. “Folks, this is not what the rest of the nation is going through.”
Rivera’s statement alludes to national tension over the shooting deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile during the first week of July, caught on camera by eyewitnesses.
The department remains tight-lipped on the officer’s name. North Miami Police Chief Gary Eugene released descriptive details: he’s a 30-year-old Hispanic male who’s been on the force for four years. The officer is also a part of the city’s SWAT team, according to The Miami Herald.
Though not present in body, Rivera read the officer’s prepared statement outlining his discontent with the public’s perceptions of him.
“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 that I’m not,” the cop said.
The shooting occurred on Monday after officers were told a suicidal armed man was in the area.
When they arrived, they found Kinsey and the 23-year-old autistic man in the street. Kinsey, a caretaker at MacTown Panther Group Home, was called by his job to retrieve the young man, who wandered away to play with his toy truck. Cell phone footage shows Kinsey lying on the ground with his hands raised. In an interview with WSVN from his hospital bed, Kinsey said he repeatedly told police that he was unarmed and not to shoot.
Police said they fired from a distance, and could not hear Kinsey or tell that the young man was autistic. Officers said they responded with gunfire after the patient was unresponsive to their calls to get down, and loaded what they thought was a gun. They fired three shots, one of them hitting Kinsey in the leg. The gun turned out to be a toy car.
The footage of Kinsey lying suspended caught national attention, tightening the strain between law enforcement and minority communities.
On Thursday evening, around 40 Black Lives Matter protesters gathered at the North Miami police headquarters, demanding the officer’s termination.
Kinsey’s shooting opens up a larger discussion surrounding de-escalation and mental health training for law enforcement. During Thursday’s press conference, Rivera said it was unclear if the officer attended crisis intervention training. According to The Herald, officers in the North Miami Police Department are not required to partake.
Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle told The Herald her office would wait to determine the need to press criminal charges until an investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement was completed.
The ACLU and civil liberties advocates are appalled at the shooting, calling for further examination of how officers are trained.
“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,” said Howard Simon, the ACLU’s executive director.
SOURCE: Miami Herald, WSVN | PHOTO CREDIT: Getty, Twitter
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