The police shooting of an unarmed African-American therapist who was trying to calm one of his autistic patients was "accidental," according to the Miami police union.
The incident unfolded Monday when Charles Kinsey, a behavior therapist, went to bring his autism patient back to the group home he had runaway from.
Moments before the shooting, video shows Kinsey lying on the ground with his hands up trying to protect his 27-year-old patient, who was sitting in the road playing with a toy truck.
The officer was supposedly trying to shoot the patient, who was thought to have possession of a gun, but shot the caregiver instead, John Rivera, president of the Dade County Police Benevolent Association, explained at a press conference Thursday.
Rivera noted that police had received reports of a suicidal man with a gun, and entered the situation with that in mind.
Kinsey, 47, was shot three times in the leg; his injuries were not fatal.
"When he hit me, I'm like, 'I still got my hands in the air,'" Kinsey said. "I'm like, 'Sir, why did you shoot me?' He said to me, 'I don't know.'"
Kinsey's attorney, Hilton Napoleon II, appeared skeptical of the police account.
"If they felt like they needed to protect my client, while he was lying on the ground, why would they put him in handcuffs afterwards? Why would they not put some type of bandage or pressure on the wound? Why wouldn't they do something like that if they really were trying to protect him?" Napoleon told HLNTV anchor Michaela Pereira.
— Michaela Pereira (@Michaela) July 22, 2016
Clint Bower, who runs the center for the developmentally disabled where Kinsey works, is calling his employee a hero.
"He saved the life of that disabled individual," he said of Kinsey."This individual he was caring for is a person with significant behavioral issues, and Charles was specifically chosen to work with this individual as his one-on-one staff because he is that much of a skilled employee."
The officer, who has yet to be identified, is on administrative leave. He issued a statement in a text message that Rivera read aloud to media during the news conference.
"I took this job to save lives and help people," the officer said. "I did what I had to do in a split-second to accomplish that, and hate to hear others paint me as something I'm not."
North Miami Police Chief Gary Eugene said at a news conference Thursday that the investigation is now under the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and local state attorney. He promised a transparent investigation.
"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," Eugene said. "I assure you we will get all the answers."