- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 21, 2016

The video shows a black man lying on the ground with his hands in the air, yelling to police officers who have guns trained on him and the autistic man by his side that he’s a behavioral therapist trying to help his patient.

Despite pleading with officers that firearms are unnecessary, a North Miami police officer opened fire, striking the unarmed Charles Kinsey once in the leg, according to accounts by police and the victim.

Mr. Kinsey, speaking to a television station from his hospital bed on Wednesday, said he thought he would emerge from the scenario unscathed because he had his hands held high and clearly visible.

“When it hit me, I’m like, I still got my hands in the air, and I said, ‘No, I just got shot!’ And I’m saying, ‘Sir, why did you shoot me?’ and his words to me, he said, ‘I don’t know,’” Mr. Kinsey told Florida television station WSVN-TV.

As Florida police investigate the shooting, Mr. Kinsey and local leaders are questioning the officer’s use of potentially deadly force.

“All the police officers that we work with, we know them, we trust them. So today, this is like a nightmare to me,” said Rep. Frederica S. Wilson, Florida Democrat, at a Thursday news conference alongside police.

Ms. Wilson said her office has monthly meetings with local police and that officers live in and are well known in the community.

“This is not supposed to be happening in our community,” she said. “North Miami is a city where police officers and the community gel. So many of our police officers come from the community, live in the community, work with the community.”

North Miami Police Chief Gary C. Eugene said at Thursday’s news conference that Monday’s incident began with officers receiving a report of a man carrying a gun and threatening to commit suicide. After officers encountered Mr. Kinsey and his client, they “attempted to negotiate with two men on the scene,” according to a police press release.

“At some point during the on-scene negotiation, one of the responding officers discharged his weapon,” striking Mr. Kinsey, police said. Mr. Kinsey worked as an employee of a group home and said he was escorting a patient who had walked away from the nearby facility. The cellphone video capturing the encounter was obtained by TV news stations Wednesday.

Chief Eugene reiterated Thursday that no gun was recovered at the scene, but he declined to provide further details about the shooting or to identify the officer involved.

“I realize there are many questions about what happened on Monday night. You have questions, the community has questions; we as a city, we as a member of this police department and I also have questions,” he said, adding that the investigation had been turned over to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the local state’s attorney. “I assure you we will get all the answers.”

Chief Eugene, who has 30 years of experience as a law enforcement officer in Florida, became the head of the North Miami department last week.

Facing his first major challenge in leading the department, civil rights activists already are asking for greater transparency about the incident.

“Transparency in this case must mean providing the public with any information about what led to the pointless shooting of an unarmed black man lying on his back with his hands up, and why the public is only hearing about it days after it happened,” said Jeff Hearne, president of the Greater Miami Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida. “We are calling on the North Miami Police to release any police camera footage related to the incident.”

He said the ACLU also would file public records requests seeking the department’s use of force and use of deadly force policies for review.

Howard Simon, executive director of the ACLU of Florida, also questioned whether police adhered to their use-of-force policy during the incident.

“Thankfully, Mr. Kinsey is alive and not more gravely injured — but had the officer’s weapon been pointed just a few degrees differently, this senseless incident could have been a much greater tragedy,” Mr. Simon said. “Great strides have been made in recent years in developing policies that help police de-escalate potentially volatile situations and bring them to an end without violence. None of them seem to have been utilized in this situation by the North Miami Police.”

An attorney for Mr. Kinsey said he already was talking to city officials about a potential settlement in the case.

“There has been a discussion of a potential settlement, [and] they want to resolve it relatively fast in good faith to let the community know that they take these things seriously, but I’m not at liberty to discuss the terms of the settlement or what we think a potential settlement will be at this point,” attorney Hilton Napoleon II told WPLG-TV.

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