By Zachary Fagenson
NORTH MIAMI, Fla. (Reuters) – The shooting by police of an unarmed black man as he lay on the ground with his hands in the air in North Miami, Florida, raised calls on Thursday for U.S. police to review their training programs and policies.
Behavioral therapist Charles Kinsey was shot on Monday as he tried to get an autistic patient back to a nearby group home from which he had wandered. A cell phone video showed Kinsey with his hands extended above his chest moments before a bullet struck his leg.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida said the incident showed more police training was needed, particularly for situations involving people with disabilities.
“We are grateful that both Mr. Kinsey and his patient are alive, but without changes in policy and improved training of officers, we will very likely see more needless shootings and deaths at the hands of police,” Howard Simon, executive director of the ACLU of Florida, said in a statement.
North Miami Police Chief Gary Eugene said on Thursday that an investigation into the shooting would be conducted by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement at his request.
Kinsey’s lawyer, Hilton Napoleon of the firm Rasco Klock Perez & Nieto in Coral Gables, Florida, sent the video to Reuters on Thursday. Napoleon did not provide information about who filmed it. Neither he nor Kinsey were immediately available for comment.
U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said on Thursday the U.S. Justice Department was gathering information about the incident, the latest controversial shooting of a black man by police in the United States.
Kinsey told Miami’s WSVN-TV that he was trying to calm the autistic patient when police showed up on Monday evening. Media reports have said Kinsey is 47 years old.
Kinsey said he dropped to the ground and lay on his back with his hands up and open to comply with commands from the police officers.
“As long as I’ve got my hands up, they’re not going to shoot me. This is what I’m thinking,” Kinsey said in an interview with WSVN-TV from a hospital bed on Wednesday. “Wow, was I wrong.”
Kinsey said he kept his hands up throughout the incident and that he asked the officer, “Sir, why did you shoot me?”
“He said, ‘I don’t know.'”
Police said in a statement that the officers were responding to an emergency call about an armed man threatening suicide. They said the officer, who has not been identified, is on administrative leave according to standard procedures.
The shooting itself was not recorded, but in the video, which has been widely circulated on social media, Kinsey can be heard talking to his patient and police while lying flat in the street.
“All he has is a toy trunk in his hands … I am a behavior therapist at a group home,” Kinsey yelled in the video. He also urged his patient, who was sitting nearby, to lie down and be still. The autistic man told him to “shut up” and did not comply.
Clint Bower, chief executive for the Miami Achievement Center for the Developmentally Disabled, which runs the group home where Kinsey has worked for more than a year, said, “My employee saved that young man’s life.”
The United States has seen demonstrations from coast to coast over the use of excessive force by police, especially toward black men.
In the past month there have been deadly shootings of black men in Louisiana and Minnesota and eight police officers have been killed in Dallas and Baton Rouge.
Police in North Miami have offered few details about the shooting. Chief Eugene told reporters that officers had responded to the scene with the threat of a gun in mind, but no gun was recovered.
“There are many questions about what happened on Monday night,” he said. “I assure you we will get all the answers.”
Florida Department of Law Enforcement spokeswoman Molly Best said the agency would not comment on the shooting.
(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien, Colleen Jenkins and Michelle Gershberg; Writing by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Toni Reinhold)