A Florida police union chief says that the officer who shot and wounded a behavioral therapist trying to retrieve an autistic patient who had wandered into the street shot the wrong person.
According to Time magazine, the officer was aiming at the patient, who the officer thought was a threat, but missed and shot Charles Kinsey instead. The officer involved in the incident Monday in North Miami, Fla., has not yet been named.
Officials say that police were responding to a call Monday about an armed man threatening to kill himself when they found Kinsey and another man sitting in the street. Officers said they did not know that the man was Kinsey's patient who had wandered out of a mental-health facility, John Rivera, president of the Police Benevolent Association in Dade County, Fla., said.
Rivera said that the officers also did not know that the patient was playing with a toy truck, and mistook the toy for a gun.
Rivera's statement seems to contradict video of the incident in which Kinsey can be heard identifying himself and his patient and saying that his patient was holding a toy.
“When I went to the ground, I’m going to the ground just like this here, with my hands up,” Kinsey said Wednesday while recovering in a hospital from his ordeal. “And I am laying down here just like this, and I’m telling them again, ‘Sir, there is no need for firearms. I’m unarmed, he’s an autistic guy. He got a toy truck in his hand.’”
However, at a news conference, police union chief Rivera said: “It appeared to the officers that the white male was trying to do harm to Mr. Kinsey. In fearing for Mr. Kinsey’s life, the officer discharged his firearm trying to save Mr. Kinsey’s life and he missed.”
The officer involved has since been placed on administrative leave but issued a statement through the police chief Thursday, saying, "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.”
Rivera acknowledged that Kinsey did "everything right" during his encounter.
“This wasn’t a mistake in the sense that the officer shot the wrong guy or he thought that Kinsey was the bad guy,” Rivera said. “This was a mistake in the sense that he knew or felt that Mr. Kinsey was a victim and was about to lose his life. And rather than sit there […] he intended to stop the white male, and accidentally shot Mr. Kinsey.”
Read more at Time magazine.