By Zachary Fagenson
MIAMI (Reuters) - Two Florida police officers have been placed on leave after an unarmed black man seen on cellphone video with his hands in the air was shot and wounded this week, North Miami's city manager said on Friday.
The officer who fired the shots, identified as SWAT team member Jonathan Aledda, is defending the action he took after police responded to an emergency call about an armed man threatening suicide.
"I took this job to save lives and help people," Aledda said in a statement. "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.”
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Aledda is on leave with pay while the case is being investigated by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office, City Manager Larry Spring said during a news conference.
Behavioral therapist Charles Kinsey was shot in the leg on Monday as he tried to get an autistic man back to a nearby group home from which he had wandered. Video that shows Kinsey prone on the ground with his hands held high before the shooting sparked fresh calls for U.S. police to review their policies on use of force.
SWAT team commander Emile Hollant has been placed on leave without pay after making conflicting statements about the incident, Spring said.
The shooting was not recorded on a video provided to Reuters by Kinsey's lawyer. But in the footage, which has circulated widely on social media, Kinsey can be heard yelling, "All he has is a toy truck in his hands."
No gun was recovered at the scene, the city's police chief said.
John Rivera, president of the Dade County Police Benevolent Association, which is representing Aledda, said Kinsey was shot accidentally after officers believed his autistic patient was on the verge of harming him.
"Sometimes police officers make mistakes, because at the end of the day they are not computers," Rivera told reporters Thursday night.
In the past month, deadly shootings of black men in Louisiana and Minnesota were followed by eight police officers being targeted and killed in Dallas and Baton Rouge. Demonstrators across the United States have protested the use of excessive force by police, particularly against black men.
North Miami officials vowed on Friday that the investigation of the latest incident would be thorough.
"It will be done with transparency, and there will not be any cover-ups," said City Councilman Scott Galvin.
(Writing by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Bill Trott and Jonathan Oatis)