As news outlets reported the police shooting of unarmed mental health therapist Charles Kinsey, much of the microscope was left off of Arnaldo Rios-Soto, the autistic man Kinsey was called to protect.
Now, Soto’s family says the 23-year-old man is suffering extreme mental distress after the shooting.
Soto’s sister Miriam told NBC News that her brother has not slept or eaten since the incident. “He’s not the same anymore,” she said.
His family is baffled about the timeline of events leading up to Kinsey’s shooting. Last Monday, Soto wandered away from his residence, the MacTown Panther Group Homes. Kinsey, Soto’s counselor at the center, was called out to retrieve him as he sat in the middle of the street playing with a toy car.
Police responded to the scene, quickly firing three times in Soto’s direction, and striking Kinsey in the leg as he lay suspended with his arms stretched out. Kinsey suffered a minor injury and was released from the hospital on Thursday.
After days of silence, the North Miami Police Department said they were unaware of Soto’s autism and fired because they mistook his toy car for a gun, fearing that he was in danger.
Jonathan Aledda, the officer who wounded Kinsey, was placed on paid administrative leave last week as the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the State Attorney’s Office continues an investigation.
“To say that we didn’t mean to shoot the African-American guy, we meant to shoot the guy with the disability makes the person’s life worth nothing,” said Matthew Dietz, the Soto family attorney, in an interview with NBC. “As a disability advocate, I was outraged. I couldn’t believe that this was actually being said by a person with some authority who should know better.”
Dietz also finds the reasoning problematic because they handcuffed Kinsey and Soto after the shooting. According to Dietz, Soto was detained in a police car for almost four hours.
“If this police department had had adequate training, this would not have happened,” Dietz said.
Gladys Soto, Arnaldo’s mother, said that his autism restricts him from gathering the mental access to properly heal.
When they arrived to the hospital, Soto was frightened again by a security guard and raised his hands to show he was unarmed, his mother told NBC.
The incident shines a terrifying spotlight on the need for de-escalation training, especially in regards to dealing with victims who suffer from mental health disparities, and continues a storied conversation on how police interact with minority communities.
Last week at their annual meeting, the NAACP passed a resolution calling for mandatory national de-escalation training for law enforcement in response to the recent police shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile.
The Miami Herald reports most law enforcement agencies across the nation require an initial crisis prevention training for new recruits, followed by a refresher course. However, the revised training is not required for North Miami officers.