Hilton Napoleon(MIAMI) — An attorney for a man with autism who was placed in a psychiatric unit after witnessing another man get shot by a police officer is urging the Department of Justice to investigate the North Miami Police and state of Florida.
Matthew Dietz, the attorney for Arnaldo Rios, wrote a letter Monday to Attorney General Loretta Lynch, claiming that Rios was placed in a facility “inappropriate for his needs” after the shooting. The Arc, a national organization that advocates for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, sent a letter to the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division on Thursday in support of Dietz’s request for an investigation. Arc said “it is vital that Mr. Rios secures an appropriate community placement as soon as possible.”
On July 18, Charles Kinsey, a behavioral therapist who worked with Rios at MacTown Panther Group Homes, where Rios lived, was shot and injured by a police officer while lying on the ground next to Rios. The shooting took place about 600 feet from the home.
The North Miami Police Department said it had received a 911 call of a man threatening to commit suicide with a gun pointed at his head. The president of the Dade County Police Benevolent Association said the scene “looked like [Rios] was about to shoot Mr. Kinsey,” according to the officers who responded to the call.
John Rivera, president of the Dade County Police Benevolent Association, said the responding officers “saw the white male almost on top of Mr. Kinsey, who had his hands up and who had his knees up, and to the officers, it looked like the white male was about to shoot Mr. Kinsey.”
“The officers all thought the individual had a firearm” and the officer who fired “was trying to save the life of Mr. Kinsey and feels horrible that his aim missed and struck Mr. Kinsey,” Rivera said.
Kinsey’s discussion with the police while he was lying on the ground with his hands up was captured on video and later released by his attorney. Kinsey can also be heard explaining that he is a behavioral therapist and that the man sitting at his feet was holding a toy truck.
“At some point during the on-scene negotiation” with the two men, one of the officers fired, striking Kinsey, police said.
Kinsey was hospitalized with non-threatening injuries. No gun was recovered, police said.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the state attorney’s office are investigating.
Dietz claims Rios, 26, was placed in a police car for three to four hours after the shooting and “received no treatment or therapy” for his “intense trauma.” He has complained that the North Miami Police Department has “no training” or “ineffective training” in community relations with persons with disabilities.
According to Dietz, Rios was initially brought back to the group home, but was taken to a psychiatric ward at Aventura Hospital when he returned to the scene of the shooting, screaming and crying.
Rios remains “inappropriately placed and segregated from the community,” Dietz said, adding that the facility he’s in is “inappropriate for his needs.” Dietz said Rios “has not been offered alternate treatment or placements.”
Rios’ mother Gladys Soto said Thursday that her son is suffering from emotional distress after witnessing the shooting.
“He is going to need patience and love,” Soto told ABC News affiliate WPLG-TV.
A spokesperson for Florida Gov. Rick Scott told ABC News that the Florida Department of Law Enforcement has started an investigation and “the Agency for Persons with Disabilities is working very hard to ensure the family has everything they need.”
Melanie Mowry Etters, a spokesperson for the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, told ABC News, “We are diligently working with the family to find an appropriate and safe option.”
The North Miami Police Department did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for comment.
Kinsey’s employer Clint Bower, the president and CEO of Mactown, a provider of services for people with disabilities, told ABC News last week that Kinsey is “our hero.”
Kinsey “did everything he was supposed to do, and was more concerned with protecting the individual he was responsible for than his own life,” Bower said.
Bower told ABC News Friday, “We eagerly await the results of this investigation, and most importantly that Arnaldo is able to recover from this tragedy.”
Jonathon Aledda, the officer who shot Kinsey, was placed on paid administrative leave last week. He said in a statement last week, “I took this job to save lives and help people. 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.”
Kinsey told reporters Thursday that he is healing but feels mentally distraught.
As for Rios, “As long as he’s fine, my heart is content,” Kinsey added.
Kinsey’s attorney, Hilton Napoleon, said Thursday he is working with the city of North Miami to quickly and amicably resolve the situation.
Napoleon said last week, “There is no justification for shooting an unarmed person who is talking to you and telling you that they don’t have a gun and that they’re a mental health counselor.”
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