As the parent of an autistic son, I just watched one of my worst fears come to life in Miami, Florida: An autistic man and his caretaker were seconds away from death because the cops are completely out of control in this country.
Charles Kinsey is a therapist that works with autistic adults in a group home. One of his charges named Rinaldo managed to get out of the home and Kinsey went after him to bring him back. This rather routine experience ended with Kinsey being shot by the police while laying on his back with his arms in the air, begging them not to kill Rinaldo who was sitting on the ground playing with a toy truck.
If that sounds crazy, you haven’t even heard the worst parts. The police were called because someone said that there was a man running around with a gun threatening to kill himself. Why this required the police to aim high-powered military rifles at him are unclear. And when one of the cops shot a man on his back with his arms in the air, what was his reason for pulling the trigger? “I don’t know.” And then they rolled the bleeding man over and handcuffed him. And the autistic man as well because in America, fuck your civil rights and fuck anything resembling human compassion.
And this was caught on video where you can hear Kinsey begging Rinaldo, “Rinaldo, please be still, Rinaldo. Sit down, Rinaldo. Lay on your stomach.”
— WSVN 7 News (@wsvn) July 20, 2016
Therapists like Kinsey are heroes to the autistic community and the way he was treated was a disgrace on every conceivable level. To volunteer to work with low- and mid-functioning autistic people takes a dedication few who are not parents of autistic children could ever possibly understand. Some people are going to say that he should have been more careful and not let Rinaldo run away but those people need to choke on their own tongues. Bolting is a behavior closely associated with autism and there is no way to stop it from happening. The best you can to do is be as vigilant as possible and keep the autistic person safe when they do.
You can clearly see from the video that Rinaldo is not a high-functioning autistic adult and the only reason he’s still alive is that he did not stand up and walk towards the police or try to run away. I live in constant fear that someday, when my son is an adult, he will have a meltdown in public and the police will simply blow him away rather than deescalate the situation.
We don’t talk about it as much, but the police have just as itchy a trigger finger when confronted with “scary” mental health issues as they do when confronted with “scary” black men. In this highly disturbing case, we see the two intersect and it’s a miracle no one is dead.
The community is already demanding answers and the police are so far, predictably, circling the wagons, refusing to release the name of the officer or any information other than to say the State Attorney is involved.
At the absolute least, this officer should lose his job. You cannot shoot a man on his back with his arms raised begging you not to shoot the person next to him and not be considered a clear and present danger to the community. Even if he tries to claim it was an accident, that he didn’t mean to pull the trigger, no one in their right mind would tolerate that level of incompetence on the police force.
Featured image via screencap,