Miami Police Shooting Witness Says He Tried to Warn Officers | NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth
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Miami Police Shooting Witness Says He Tried to Warn Officers

The shooting sparked protests and drew national attention because much of what led up to it was captured on video



    A new video has people asking why North Miami police shot a man who was working with an autistic man. NBC 6's Michael Spears has the story. (Published Thursday, July 21, 2016)

    When Thomas Matthews noticed North Miami police officers responding to a commotion a block from his usual outdoor sitting spot, he grabbed his binoculars and saw a middle-aged black man and a younger man with autism sitting in an intersection.

    The officers, he said, grabbed rifles from the patrol cars' trunks and crept toward the men. The man with autism was holding something in his hand. Peering through his binoculars, he could see the object was a toy truck. Matthews said he tried to tell an officer who had stayed behind for crowd control, but she told him to back up.

    Soon, three shots rang out and therapist Charles Kinsey, who had been trying to coax his 27-year-old client with autism back to a nearby facility, was wounded in the leg. The shooting sparked protests and drew national attention because much of what happened before the shooting was captured on video.

    "If she would have told the other officers, maybe they wouldn't have shot," said Matthews, a 73-year-old African-American. He ran a North Miami flower shop before retiring and has lived in the area for years. He said he has never had a problem with North Miami police.

    RAW: Video Shows Man With Hands Up Before Shot by Police

    [MI-NATL] RAW: Video Shows Moments Before Man Shot by North Miami Police Officer
    WARNING: Some viewers may find this video disturbing. This cellphone video shows the moments before a South Florida caregiver was shot by a North Miami Police officer as he was trying to calm an autistic patient. Charles Kinsey was hospitalized with a gunshot wound to his leg. His attorney, Hilton Napoleon, said Kinsey was unarmed. Police said the officer has been placed on administrative leave, per department policy. (Published Thursday, July 21, 2016)

    "But I guess with all the shootings that are going on, they are nervous and shook up," Matthews said.

    At a news conference Thursday, North Miami Police Chief Gary Eugene said the investigation has been turned over to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the state attorney's office. He called it a "very sensitive matter" and promised a transparent investigation, but refused to identify the officer or answer reporters' questions. Eugene, a Haitian-American with 30 years of South Florida police experience, just became chief last week.

    "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. "I assure you we will get all the answers."

    During a Thursday news conference, John Rivera, who runs Miami-Dade County's police union, said the officer believed Kinsey's patient was armed, and the officer was trying to shoot the patient in an attempt to save Kinsey's life.

    Nancy Abudu, the American Civil Liberties Union's legal director in Florida, said her group hasn't received any brutality complaints about the North Miami police or about any questionable shootings before this week's.

    Kinsey's attorney, Hilton Napoleon II, said he is already talking to North Miami city officials about a monetary settlement for his client, who is married with five children. City officials did not return a phone call seeking confirmation.

    Attorney General Loretta Lynch told reporters the Justice Department is aware of the shooting and working with local law enforcement to gather all of the facts and to decide how to proceed.

    U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson, who represents the area, said she was in shock.

    "From what I saw, he was lying on the ground with his hands up. Freezing. But he was still shot," said Wilson, a Democrat.

    "This is not typical of North Miami," she said. "We're not accustomed to this tension. ... This cannot happen again."