Editorials

Police officers’ unwritten rule? When in doubt, shoot the black guy

Miami Herald Editorial Board

Cellphone video shows caretaker lying in the street before being shot by police

Video shows the scene before and after caretaker Charles Kinsey is shot. He is seen lying in the street with a 26-year-old man with autism before being hit by a bullet from an assault rifle fired by a North Miami police officer.
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Video shows the scene before and after caretaker Charles Kinsey is shot. He is seen lying in the street with a 26-year-old man with autism before being hit by a bullet from an assault rifle fired by a North Miami police officer.

When Charles Kinsey, who was flat on his back with his arms raised high in the air asked the North Miami police officer who subsequently shot him why he had done so, the officer replied: “I don’t know.”

Let’s hope such simple transparent honesty continues to guide any and all investigations into this dubious-looking shooting of Mr. Kinsey, a mental healthcare worker who was trying to coax a young man with autism out of the street where he sat playing with a toy truck.

North Miami Police Chief Gary Eugene’s new conference was woefully short on information. He needs to do better in the coming days. The issue isn’t going away; already the story and the images have going viral on mainstream and social media. He’s got a seriously questionable shooting on his hands, and he needs to convey that he’s as deeply troubled as everyone else. He took no questions at the news conference. That’s unacceptable. He needs to do a do-over ASAP.

The original call to police reported that there was a man in the street with a gun threatening to kill himself — no doubt a scary and dangerous scenario for police to handle.

When police arrived, they ordered both men to the ground. Mr. Kinsey did so, the young man, possibly not understanding the situation, did not. Video clearly shows Mr. Kinsey in compliance. That’s when the officer fired three times hitting the healthcare worker in the leg. Why? The officer himself said he did not know.

Here are some possible reasons:

1. The officer’s weapon malfunctioned.

2. The officer was poorly trained.

3. The officer was following an unwritten rule that seems to guide too many officers these days: Shoot the black guy, no matter what. Here, Mr. Kinsey fit the description.

The ensuing FDLE investigation must get to the bottom of this.

There is good news here: The young autistic man was not injured, and Mr. Kinsey is alive.

Everyone involved was lucky. That includes the city of North Miami, which may be spared the protests that rocked other communities when a black person wound up being killed in an apparently unwarranted shooting by police. But the city must respond more effectively than it has so far if it wants to reassure the public that its police are not trigger-happy. Right now, the community’s residents have a lot of questions, and so do we.

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