The Florida police officer who shot and wounded an autistic man’s caretaker earlier this week was aiming at the patient, who he felt was a threat, when he accidentally missed and shot the wrong person, a police union chief said Thursday.
The officer, who has not yet been named, was responding to a call Monday of an armed and suicidal man when authorities say he found 47-year-old Charles Kinsey and another man sitting in the street. Police officers at the time did not know the other man was a disabled patient who had wandered from an assisted living facility, said John Rivera, president of the Police Benevolent Association in Dade County.
Officers also did not know the 27-year-old patient was playing with a toy truck and thought it was a firearm, he said.
“It appeared to the officers that the white male was trying to do harm to Mr. Kinsey,” Rivera said at a news conference. “In fearing for Mr. Kinsey’s life, the officer discharged his firearm trying to save Mr. Kinsey’s life and he missed.”
Video of the incident appears to show Kinsey lying down and putting his hands up while trying to get his patient to comply. An officer then fired three times, striking Kinsey in the leg, North Miami Assistant Police Chief Neal Cuevas told the Miami Herald.
“As long as I got my hands up, they’re not going to shoot me — this is what I’m thinking,” Kinsey told WSVN-Channel 7 from a bed at Jackson Memorial Hospital. “They’re not going to shoot me. Wow, was I wrong.”
The officer behind the shooting, who has been placed on administrative leave, issued a statement through the police chief Thursday. “I took this job to save lives and help people,” the statement said. “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 said Kinsey “did everything right” during the encounter with police.
“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 and watch nothing, he intended to stop the white male and accidentally shot Mr. Kinsey.”
“He thought Mr. Kinsey was about to be killed,” Rivera later added.