y Zachary Fagenson
NORTH MIAMI, Florida (Reuters) – An employee of a group home who was shot by police in North Miami, Florida, said he was more worried about his autistic patient than himself before he felt the sting of a bullet in his leg.
Behavioral therapist Charles Kinsey told WSVN-TV in Miami on Wednesday that he was trying to calm the man, who had run away from the home on Monday when police showed up. Kinsey was on his back with his hands up and open to comply with the commands of the officers, who according to a police statement were responding to a 911 call about an armed man threatening suicide.
“As long as I’ve got my hands up, they’re not going to shoot me. This is what I’m thinking,” Kinsey said in an interview from his hospital bed on Wednesday. “Wow, was I wrong.”
U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said on Thursday the Justice Department was gathering information about the incident, the latest in a series of controversial shootings of black men by police in the United States.
Kinsey said he told police he was unarmed and there was no need for guns. He told WSVN-TV he kept his hands up throughout the incident and that he asked the officer, “Sir, why did you shoot me?”
“He said, ‘I don’t know,'” Kinsey said.
The officer, who has not been named, is on administrative leave per standard procedure, the department said.
Cellphone video showing Kinsey with his hands high before police opened fire emerged online on Wednesday, sparking new outrage. The shooting itself was not recorded.
In the video, Kinsey can be heard talking to both his patient and police while prone in the street.
“All he has is a toy trunk in his hands … I am a behavior therapist at a group home,” Kinsey yells. He also urges his patient, who is sitting nearby, to lie down and be still.
The autistic man tells him to “shut up” and does not comply.
Videos in the past year of such shootings or their aftermath in cities including North Charleston, South Carolina; Baton Rouge, Louisiana; and a suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota have spurred protests over use of force against minorities by police. The Baton Rouge and St. Paul incidents were followed by attacks that killed eight police officers.
Police in North Miami have offered few details about the latest incident. Police Chief Gary Eugene told reporters on Thursday he had asked the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to lead the investigation.
Eugene said officers responded to the scene with the threat of a gun in mind but no gun was recovered.
“There are many questions about what happened on Monday night,” the chief said. “I assure you we will get all the answers.”
(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien, Colleen Jenkins and Michelle Gershberg; Writing by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Bill Trott)