Attorney: Caregiver shot by police after toy truck mistaken for gun

NORTH MIAMI, FLA. (WSVN) - A man is recovering in the hospital after police may have mistaken a toy for a gun, causing a big misunderstanding.

Miami-Dade Fire Rescue responded to the scene of the reported shooting, located right by a group home near Northeast 14th Avenue and 127th Street, Monday, at around 5:30 p.m.

Witnesses and the man who was shot, Charles Kinsey, said that officials made a big mistake in this case. Kinsey’s attorney, Hilton Napoleon said that his client works with the disabled for a living and was assisting an autistic man who had a toy truck in his hand. North Miami Police may have believed the toy was a weapon, and that’s when police fired shots, hitting the caregiver in the leg.

“He tried to explain that this is a mental health patient, that he was trying to get him back into the facility,” Napoleon said. “There was no need for firearms. He put his hands up, told them he was unarmed.”

Kinsey was transported to Jackson Memorial Hospital where he continues to recover from wounds that were not life-threatening, Tuesday.

“He doesn’t understand why he was shot,” Napoleon said. “He was complying. He wasn’t arrested. There are not any allegations that he resisted an officer’s command or anything like that.”

Tuesday evening, North Miami Police released a statement that read in part, “There is preliminary information that North Miami Police Officers were dispatched to the scene after a 911 call was received of an armed male suspect threatening suicide. Arriving officers attempted to negotiate with two men on the scene, one of whom was later identified as suffering from autism. The other man was later identified as an employee of an assisted living facility. At some point during the on-scene negotiation, one of the responding officers discharged his weapon, striking the employee.”

Witness Thomas Matthews lives nearby and said he saw the shooting unfold. “The guy was yelling, ‘Help me. Help me.’ And all of a sudden, three shots were fired. Boom, boom, boom,” he said.

A surveillance video from a nearby business captured the scene as North Miami Beach Police arrived in the area. Matthews said Kinsey was shot 15 minutes after police arrived.

“Police thought the guy had a weapon, but he had a toy because he was autistic,” Matthews said. “The view of the way he was holding it, it looked like a gun, but it was a toy.”

Kinsey works at a group home near the scene. Clint Bower, the manager of the group home, said Kinsey was escorting the autistic man back to the group home where he lives. “My employee apparently was walking down 14th Avenue with this individual who lives in the group home,” he said. “He’s about 23 years old, he’s autistic, he’s non-verbal, he’s relatively low-functioning, and that’s really all we know.”

According to Kinsey’s attorney, he tried to explain to police that he was helping the autistic man back to his home and was laying down on the ground with his hands in the air when he was shot.

Bower said he believes the police officer might have mistaken a toy truck the autistic man was holding for a weapon.

According to those who know him, Kinsey is actively involved in the Circle of Brotherhood, a non-profit organization that reaches out to youth and prepares them for the future.

They were shocked to hear about what happened overnight, according to 7News sources.

According to Napoleon, a neighbor called police and mistakenly claimed that the autistic person had a gun. “There was no gun,” Napoleon said. “There wasn’t even a toy gun; it was a toy truck.”

Police confirmed that they received a 911 call just prior to the shooting, Monday. “Officers responded to the scene, in emergency mode in reference to a man with a gun,” North Miami Police spokesperson Natalie Buissereth said.

Bloody clothes could be seen in the middle of the road near the apartment complex. Police tape was put up and a crime scene unit was in the area taking pictures.

The road at 14th Avenue between 123rd and 125th was temporarily closed due to the investigation. It was later reopened.

Police said the investigation into the shooting remains ongoing. “Right now, they’re collecting all of the evidence,” Buissereth said.

No officers were injured during the shooting, according to a police spokesperson.

In their statement, North Miami Police said the officer who discharged his firearm “has been placed on administrative leave.”

They also encouraged any witnesses to come forward. “The investigation continues with the assistance of the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office. Anyone who has additional information, or may have witnessed the incident is asked to call the North Miami Police Department,” the statement read.

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