MIAMI – An unarmed black man was reportedly shot by police while laying on the ground with his hands in the air.
Police were called to the scene to investigate reports of an armed, suicidal man on July 20th, 2016. The man was, in fact, autistic; he had left his assisted living facility, and was reportedly wandering around with suicidal intent.
Charles Kinsey was on the scene before police even arrived. The 47-year-old behavior therapist employed by the group home was trying to calm the man down when they got there. Police were unaware that the autistic man did not have a gun, and was in fact holding a toy truck. The situation escalated, and Kinsey quickly lay down on the ground with his hands in the air.
Cellphone video from a bystander captured what transpired. Kinsey lay on the ground, explaining the situation to officers at a distance. Meanwhile, the autistic man, whom Kinsey referred to as Rinaldo, yelled threats at him.
Kinsey complied with officers’ orders while trying to show them that the situation was not dangerous. “All he has is a toy truck, a toy truck,” Kinsey yelled.
Despite his efforts, one of the responding officers shot Kinsey while he was lying down. He was transported to the hospital with no life-threatening injuries. The officer that shot Kinsey was placed on administrative leave, according to department policy.
In a later interview with a local news station, Kinsey revealed that he was shocked by what had transpired. “I was thinking as long as I have my hands up … they’re not going to shoot me. This is what I’m thinking — they’re not going to shoot me. Wow, was I wrong.”
Police Shootings Draw National Attention
So far in 2016, America has seen increasing unrest over controversy regarding police’s use of excessive force. This most recent incident is one of many where police officers are accused of shooting or injuring black men without justification. According to the Washington Post, 533 people have been shot and killed by police in 2016 alone.
However, police have a right to be worried for their safety. Recent crimes have targeted police, and many protests and demonstrations have expressed hostility towards police officers. Law enforcement officers are beginning to fear for their safety, and have expressed concern that rising unrest interferes with their ability to do their jobs.
Some claim that African Americans are much more likely to be shot by police than others, and this has been the main cause of tension between police and protestors in recent months.
Many demonstrators and activists are concerned at the apparent lack of consequence for police officers who shoot citizens. They claim that there is a legal double standard; one justice system for law enforcement, and one for civilians. The officer who shot Kinsey is under investigation by the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office, but it is still unclear what his future holds.
The shooting of Charles Kinsey will bear significance in the coming weeks. Escalating tensions in the last few months have caused unrest across the country. As both sides struggle to make their voices heard, many worry that growing hostility will put more people at risk.