North Miami Officer 'Accidentally' Shot Unarmed Man Lying in Street While Trying to Save Him, Says Union Chief

Charles Kinsey, a behavioral therapist, was shot in the leg Monday while trying to help a man with autism who wandered out of a group home


A North Miami police officer who shot an unarmed black man lying in the street Monday was actually trying to save the man’s life, says the president of his local police union.

John Rivera, president of Dade County’s Police Benevolent Association, spoke out Thursday and said the unidentified officer, a SWAT team member, “accidentally” shot 47-year-old Charles Kinsey while trying to protect him from another man in the street. That man was later determined to be a 23-year-old with autism, who was carrying a toy truck.

Although authorities did not know it at the time, Kinsey was working as a behavioral therapist at a North Miami group home and followed the patient after he wandered off the property.

Cell phone video of the incident surfaced earlier this week, showing Kinsey with his arms in the air as he lay in the street, bringing national attention the case.

Rivera said that responding officers Monday had received a call of a suicidal man with a gun, and when they found two men at the scene, “It appeared to the officers that the white male was trying to do harm to Mr. Kinsey.”

The officers believed that the man was carrying a firearm, Rivera said. They did not know it was a toy and the officer who fired felt Kinsey’s life was in danger, he said.

“And fearing for Mr. Kinsey’s life, the officer discharged his firearm, trying to save Mr. Kinsey’s life, and he missed and accidentally struck Mr. Kinsey,” Rivera said.

“Mr. Kinsey did everything right. What the officer didn’t know [was] what was the white individual’s intentions,” Rivera said. “He thought Mr. Kinsey was about to be killed. He actually was trying to save Mr. Kinsey.”

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Rivera also rebuked the suggestion that the officers could hear Kinsey, who tried to explain to them what was happening as he lay on the ground, according to the video.

Rivera said the video was filmed from a “different vantage point and much closer than the officer was,” though he said he did not know how far away the officer was from Kinsey.

Rivera also said that, according to what he had been told, the officer who fired is a member of the SWAT team and a decorated officer. “I don’t think he’s had any issues,” Rivera said.

He also read a statement from the officer:

“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 I am not.”

Kinsey remained hospitalized Thursday with a gunshot wound to his leg, according to the Miami Herald. Police officials have said the officer fired his weapon three times, striking Kinsey once, according to the Herald.

“The officer is praying for his speedy recovery, as are we,” Rivera said Thursday.

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The Police Chief Speaks

No weapons were recovered at the scene of Monday’s shooting, North Miami Police Chief Gary Eugene said at his own news conference Thursday, according to the Herald.

He said that outside state agencies have assumed the investigation, including the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the state’s attorney general.

The FDLE’s findings will be reviewed before prosecutors determine whether or not to charge the officer, according to the Herald.

Eugene did not identify the officer, according to the Herald.

“I assure you, we’ll get all the answers,” he said.

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