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Black therapist: Police shot me with my hands up

TERRY SPENCER | 7/31/2016, 9:28 p.m.
A Black therapist who was trying to calm an autistic man in the middle of the street said he was ...
Charles Kinsey explains from his hospital bed in Miami what happened when he was shot by police, July 20. Kinsey, a therapist who was trying to calm an autistic patient in the middle of the street, said he was shot after his hands were in the air and repeatedly told the police that no one was armed. WSVN

NORTH MIAMI, Fla. – A Black therapist who was trying to calm an autistic man in the middle of the street said he was shot by police even though he had his hands in the air and repeatedly told them that no one was armed.

The moments before the shooting were recorded on cellphone video and show Charles Kinsey lying on the ground with his arms raised, talking to his patient and police throughout the standoff with officers, who appeared to have them surrounded.

“As long as I’ve got my hands up, they’re not going to shoot me. This is what I’m thinking. They’re not going to shoot me,” he told WSVN-TV from his hospital bed, where he was recovering from a gunshot wound to his leg. “Wow, was I wrong.”

The shooting comes amid weeks of violence involving police. Five officers were killed in Dallas two weeks ago and three law enforcement officers were gunned down Sunday in Baton Rouge, La. Before those shootings, a Black man, Alton Sterling, 37, was fatally shot during a scuffle with two White officers at a convenience store. In Minnesota, 32-year-old Philando Castile, who was also Black, was shot to death during a traffic stop. Cellphone videos captured Sterling’s killing and the aftermath of Castile’s shooting, prompting nationwide protests over the treatment of Blacks by police.

At a news conference Thursday, North Miami Police Chief Gary Eugene said the investigation had been turned over to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the office of the state’s attorney. He called it a “very sensitive matter” and promised a transparent investigation, but he refused to identify the officer or answer reporters’ questions.

“I realize there are many questions about what happened on Monday night. You have questions, the community has questions, we as a city, we as a member of this police department and I also have questions,” he said. “I assure you we will get all the answers.”

The chief said officers responded following reports of a man with a gun threatening to kill himself. The officers arrived “with that threat in mind,” but no gun was recovered.

Kinsey, 47, said he was trying to coax his 27-year-old patient back to the facility that he had wandered from. Police ordered Kinsey and the patient, who was sitting in the street playing with a toy truck, to lie on the ground.

“Lay down on your stomach,” Kinsey said to his patient in the video, which was shot from a distance and provided to the Miami Herald.

“Shut up!” responded the patient, who was sitting cross-legged in the road.

“He has a toy truck in his hand! A toy truck!” Kinsey said to officers who have their guns drawn.

Kinsey said he was more worried about his patient than himself.

“I’m telling them again, `Sir, there is no need for firearms. I’m unarmed, he’s an autistic guy. He got a toy truck in his hand,” he said.

An officer later fired three times, striking Kinsey in the leg, Assistant Police Chief Neal Cuevas told the newspaper.