Few Answers From Police in Shooting of Unarmed Mental-Health Worker

MIAMI (Miami Herald/TNS) -
Charles Kinsey explains in an interview from his hospital bed in Miami what happened when he was shot by police on Monday. (WSVN via AP)
Charles Kinsey explains in an interview from his hospital bed in Miami what happened when he was shot by police on Monday. (WSVN via AP)

North Miami Police Chief Gary Eugene addressed the public Thursday morning for the first time since one of his officers shot an unarmed mental healthcare worker while he was caring for a patient.

The chief didn’t take any questions. He didn’t name the officer who fired his weapon. And he didn’t say whether the officer was aiming at the 23-year-old autistic man playing with a toy truck while sitting in the roadway, or if he had set his sites on the victim, Charles Kinsey.

In a brief press conference at North Miami police headquarters, Eugene said no weapon had been recovered and spoke of the department’s commitment to transparency. Then he repeated information the department released earlier in the week and said the Florida Department of Law Enforcement would take over the investigation.

“While you may feel like this adds more time to the process, this is indeed is the process under Florida law,” said the chief.

Then Eugene left the podium, refusing to answer more questions on his way out. No one else in North Miami spoke.

Also in attendance was U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson, who called the shooting “a total breakdown,” and said “we’re all in shock today.”

Also weighing in was Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle who said her department will conduct a parallel investigation with FDLE. Then, she said, her office will study the state police agency’s findings and determine whether criminal charges should be filed against the officer who fired his weapon.

“We will release detailed information about all the evidence once our investigation is complete,” Fernandez Rundle said.

On Thursday, three days after he was shot, 47-year-old Charles Kinsey remained at Jackson Memorial Hospital suffering from a gunshot wound to his leg. He is expected to be released this week.

Kinsey was shot late Monday afternoon by a North Miami police officer who may have been aiming at an autistic man who was playing with a toy truck and not responding to orders to lay down on the ground.

The incident began, according to police, when someone called 911 to say that a man was in the roadway at Northeast 127th Street and 14th Avenue with a gun and was threatening to kill himself.

The man turned out to be someone suffering with autism who had wandered away from a nearby mental health clinic about a block away and who had sat down in the street playing with a toy. Kinsey, who was caring for the man, said he made his way to the street to try and coax him back into the building.

But police arrived before the man got up and ordered both men to the ground. A cellphone video provided by Kinsey’s attorney Hilton Napoleon clearly shows Kinsey lying supine with his arms raised. The autistic man beside him, sitting cross-legged and upright with the toy truck in his hand.

Then an officer fired his weapon, three times according to North Miami police. One of the bullets struck Kinsey in the leg. After the shooting, a second cellphone video clip shows police rolling Kinsey and the autistic man over on the ground, searching them and handcuffing Kinsey.