Shooting of Charles Kinsey
Cellphone video footage, showing mental health therapist Charles Kinsey lying on the ground with his arms raised in North Miami, Florida, before being shot by police. Kinsey's patient is seated beside him.
|Date||July 18, 2016|
|Location||Northeast 127th Street and 14th Avenue, North Miami, Florida, U.S.|
|Filmed by||Bystander's cell phone|
|Participants||Jonathan Aledda (officer of the North Miami Police Department)|
|Outcome||Shooting officer charged with attempted manslaughter and negligence|
|Non-fatal injuries||Charles Kinsey|
|Charges||Attempted manslaughter, negligence|
|Litigation||Kinsey filed federal lawsuit against SWAT officer|
On July 18, 2016, Charles Kinsey, a mental health therapist, was shot by police in North Miami, Florida. Kinsey, an African-American man, had been retrieving his autistic 23-year-old patient, Arnaldo Rios Soto, who had wandered from his group home. Police encountered the pair while searching for an armed suicidal man. Kinsey was lying on the ground with his hands in the air and trying to negotiate between officers and his patient when he was shot.
Both Kinsey and his patient were unarmed. Following the shooting, Kinsey stated he was handcuffed and left bleeding on the ground for 20 minutes with police giving him no medical aid. Authorities stated that they were investigating the incident, which received significant media attention following the appearance of cellphone video footage. The officer who shot Kinsey was arrested in 2017 and charged with attempted manslaughter and negligence. However, he remains employed and has not been terminated.
On July 18, 2016, shortly before 5:00 p.m. EDT, a 23-year-old autistic man with a toy truck left a mental health facility, MacTown Panther Group Homes. Charles Kinsey, a 47-year-old mental health worker, left the facility to find and retrieve the patient. Kinsey had worked at the facility for over a year, was involved in community efforts to keep local kids in school, and is the father of five children. According to NPR, Kinsey has been a member of the local "Circle of Brotherhood" group whose mission is "Serving and Protecting our Community".
The police stated that they were responding to reports of a man threatening to shoot himself in the area, at Northeast 127th Street and 14th Avenue. Police received a call around 5:30 p.m. The North Miami Assistant Police Chief, Neal Cuevas, said that the autistic man did not comply with orders when they arrived on the scene.
While Kinsey lay on the ground with his hands raised, one officer, identified by the city as North Miami Police Department Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team member Jonathan Aledda, fired three rounds from a rifle, with one bullet striking Kinsey in the leg. The shooting occurred a block from the group home where Kinsey worked at 1365 NE 128th St.
Kinsey's lawyer Hilton Napoleon II provided the Miami Herald with a cellphone video of Kinsey lying on the ground, his hands in the air, moments before the shooting. In the video Kinsey asks police not to shoot him, while his patient plays with his toy truck. Kinsey stated that he was trying to convince his patient to obey officers' commands. The video also shows Kinsey telling police that he is unarmed. In the video Kinsey is seen telling police, "All he has is a toy truck. A toy truck. I am a behavior therapist at a group home." Kinsey is also shown telling his patient, "Please be still... lay down on your stomach."
Kinsey stated that after being shot, police turned him on his back, handcuffed him, and left him bleeding on the road for 20 minutes. Police did nothing to stop Kinsey's bleeding before an ambulance arrived. A second video shows officers carrying rifles and patting down Kinsey and his patient while they lay on the ground.
A witness to the shooting told the Associated Press that when police arrived, he grabbed binoculars and saw that the autistic man seated in the road, next to Kinsey, was holding a toy truck. He informed an officer that the man was holding a toy and not a gun, but she told him to back up and did not inform other officers. Kinsey was shot shortly afterwards.
Official accounts show that at least 30 seconds before shots were fired, an officer clearly identified the item as a toy truck and shared the information with all the other police officers at the scene via radio.
Kinsey survived the shooting after being taken to Jackson Memorial Hospital. Kinsey said that at first his life flashed before his eyes, and thought of his family. Kinsey added that being shot "was so surprising, it was like a mosquito bite." According to Kinsey, when he asked the officer why he had shot him, the officer replied, "I don't know." Kinsey's lawyer stated that when another officer asked the shooting officer "why did you shoot this guy", the shooter again responded, "I don't know."
Kinsey stated that he was more worried about his patient, who did not have his hands raised, and did not believe he himself would be shot. "As long as I've got my hands up, they're not gonna shoot me, that's what I'm thinking," Kinsey said. "Wow, I was wrong." Kinsey's wife said, "I'm just grateful he's alive and able to tell his story."
Following the shooting, the name of the police officer who shot Kinsey was not immediately revealed to the public. Napoleon said that he believed the officer was a white male. The officer was placed on administrative leave, and in addition, police announced that the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office would assist with an ongoing investigation. Police announced that the shooter was a 30-year-old Hispanic officer who had worked in the police department for four years and was a member of the SWAT team. Miami police subsequently identified the officer as Jonathan Aledda. A second officer was suspended without pay for giving conflicting accounts of the shooting.
A police department employee told the Herald that the officer fired because the autistic patient did not obey police commands. On July 22, the head of the local police union, John Rivera, said that the officer who fired the bullets was aiming for Kinsey's patient, and was "trying to save Kinsey's life." Rivera said that Kinsey "did everything right." In response to Rivera's statements, Napoleon and some media outlets questioned the explanation that Kinsey was shot accidentally and asked why Kinsey was handcuffed and left bleeding on the ground after being shot. On July 22, 2016, Larry M. Spring Jr., the North Miami city manager, said at a news conference that Cmdr. Emile Hollant had been placed on leave due to "evidence of conflicting statements" he gave to investigators.
On August 3, 2016, Kinsey filed a federal lawsuit against Jonathan Aledda, claiming he violated his civil rights and used excessive force and falsely arrested him. In his complaint, Kinsey states that Aledda violated his Fourth Amendment right to be free from excessive force during police seizures when he shot him in the leg. He also states that Aledda put handcuffs on him that were too tight, cutting off his circulation.
On April 12, 2017, Jonathan Aledda was arrested on charges of attempted manslaughter and negligence for his role in the affair. The Miami-Dade County Criminal Justice Online Systems state case number is 13-2017-CF-007072-0001-XX.
In March 2019, the case was declared a mistrial as the jury could not reach a verdict on all charges. The jurors voted to acquit Aledda of one misdemeanor count of culpable negligence for shooting at Rios Soto. However they could not reach a decision on the three remaining charges, one of misdemeanor culpable negligence for his shot at Kinsey and two charges of felony attempted manslaughter. Prosecutors have yet to decide if they will retry the case.
On Thursday after the shooting, Black Lives Matter activists protested outside the North Miami police department, stating that it was Kinsey who was "protecting and serving" in the incident, and confronting police officials. Protestors demanded that the shooting officer be fired.
Internationally, France TV wrote that while the incident could have ended far more tragically, it was "no less absurd and worrisome", calling the event "surreal". Le Figaro wrote that the story broke at a time when the United States has been "plagued by intense controversy following the death of several blacks shot by police, and attacks on five policemen."
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