A recent police shooting of an innocent person is yet another example of why I would rather be armed for self defense than to rely upon the police to protect me.
The shooting of Charles Kinsey by a North Miami police officer
According to news reports and a statement issued by the police officer’s union, someone called 911 to say there was an armed and suicidal man on Monday. Police arrived on the scene to find an autistic adult who had wandered out of a care facility and was playing with a toy truck. The therapist from the care facility,Charles Kinsey, was nearby. In a cell phone video recorded by a bystander from seconds before the shooting, Mr. Kinsey can seen lying on the ground with his hands up, and clearly telling the officers that “all he has is a toy truck,” and “I am a behavior therapist at a group home,” and also telling the police that there was no need for guns to be used. A police officer then shot Mr. Kinsey in the leg. Mr. Kinsey reportedly asked the officer “Sir, why did you shoot me?” to which the officer reportedly replied “I don’t know.” In the statement released Thursday by the police union, the officer claims that he fired 3 shots intending to shoot the autistic adult to protect Mr. Kinsey, but missed and hit Mr. Kinsey once and the autistic adult 0 times. Mr. Kinsey is black. The autistic adult is white. The police officer is Hispanic. No charges have been filed against the officer, who is on paid leave. Mr. Kinsey is in the hospital, recovering from being shot.
The danger posed by police response to an emergency
There have been many cases of the police responding to the scene of a crime, only to shoot the wrong person. Indeed, research shows that the police are about 5.5 times more likely than an armed citizen to shoot the wrong person. Part of that is likely due to the fact that the police are arriving in an area they likely don’t know, filled with people who they likely do not know, which makes it harder for them to distinguish the aggressor from the victim. They are also basing decisions upon information relayed by a dispatcher who likely has only 2nd hand knowledge of the situation themselves. Compared with an armed citizen who knows the area and the people, and has first-hand knowledge of the situation, it is not too surprising that police are more likely to shoot the wrong person (or shoot when there is no need to shoot).
It is also worth noting that police enjoy more legal protection when they shoot the wrong person than an armed citizen, so it is hard to imagine that fact doesn’t play a role in the willingness of some police officers to shoot first and ask questions later. Using this case as an example, I highly doubt that if I, as an armed citizen, were to have shot the therapist under those circumstances that I would be sitting at home on a paid vacation with no pending charges 3 days later. Yet the police officer who shot Mr. Kinsey is doing exactly that.
Finally, the shooting of yet another black male who was not posing a threat is likely not lost on anyone, given recent events. I won’t rehash my thoughts on that matter here, as I have already typed over 2,500 words in that article.
UPDATE: Please also see some excellent commentary from one of my favorite legal blogs, Above the Law.