The Florida police officer who shot an unarmed behavioral therapist was aiming for the autistic patient the therapist was trying to protect, police union officials said, according to the New York Daily News.
The North Miami officer has yet to be named, but has been described as a 30-year-old Hispanic man that has been with the police department for four years, according to N.Y. Daily News. The officer, who is on paid leave, told his union representative that he thought that Charles Kinsey, the therapist, was in danger.
“The movement of the white individual looked like he was getting ready to charge a firearm into Mr. Kinsey, and the officer discharged, trying to strike and stop the white male, and unfortunately, he missed,” said John Rivera, president of the Miami-Dade County Police Benevolent Association, according to 7News Miami.
“This is a case where a police officer was trying to save Mr. Kinsey’s life, and unfortunately, his shot went astray,” Rivera added.
The officer could face charges. North Miami Police Chief Gary Eugene promised a transparent investigation of the “very sensitive matter” and the case has been turned over to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Office of the State’s Attorney.
Police were responding to a 911 call that came in about 5 p.m. on Monday. The caller reported that a man with a gun was threatening suicide.
The autistic patient escaped from the group home and was carrying his toy truck. Kinsey said he was trying to calm the 24-year-old runaway when the police arrived.
“There’s no justification for shooting an unarmed person who’s talking to you and telling you that they don’t have a gun, and that they’re a mental health counselor,” Kinsey’s lawyer, Hilton Napoleon said, 7News reported.
The Miami-Dade police union said that the officer did everything right and was trying to protect Kinsey from who he thought was an agitated, armed man.
“I took this job to save lives and help people,” the officer said in a statement he made though Rivera. “I did what I had to do in a split second to accomplish that and hate to hear others paint me as something I’m not.”
On Thursday night, Kinsey was released from the hospital.