I have a fondness for the humor stylings of Dave Barry. This fact probably makes me an unreasonably old man, psychologically, but I’ve learned to accept it. I’m also a fan of his digital-age spiritual successor, the Florida Man feed on Twitter and Reddit. I feel that these fine news sources carry on the decades-long tradition of mining the sheer high-concentration weirdness of that state for comedy gold.
So it was with some bemusement and a strange sense of comic relief that I learned today of Miami’s contribution to the ongoing Black Lives Matter race war. Amidst all the police killings of questionable young Black men we have the epitome of farce: A police officer (of unstated race, but almost certainly Hispanic given the demographics of local institutions) non-fatally shooting a Black mental health aide who was trying to coax an autistic patient — who had wandered into a busy road — back to the group care home. By all accounts, and the video footage that has emerged so far, Charles Kinsey, the Black aide, got to the ground and put his hands in the air when he realized the police had arrived and did his best to inform them of the state of the autistic patient. Even more Florida Man: the cop was unable to score a fatal hit in three rounds from a semi-automatic rifle (lucky in the present case, but what does this say about the training and effectiveness of the police?), and, when asked by the injured man immediately after the shooting as to why he opened fire, the cop’s eloquent response was “I don’t know.”
Hands Up, Don’t Shoot?
As usual for these sorts of cases, my considered view is that we should await the official investigation, the report and the disciplinary results before rushing to the streets to riot. There may yet be unknown facts which render the cop’s actions justifiable. Or, if there are none, appropriate discipline for inflicting negligent or intentional harm may be meted out by the municipal authorities. There was no sense in rushing to judgment on incomplete evidence in the Alton Sterling and Philando Castile cases, and there is none here.
And yet I conclude with this thought: for a moment it seemed as if we might — just might — have had the most perfect example yet of that mythical unicorn of police incidents: the deliberate, unjustified shooting of a peaceful, unarmed Black man with his hands up saying “don’t shoot.” Even the vaunted shooting of Walter Scott by officer Michael Slager frays considerably when examined too closely — Mr. Scott had allegedly attacked Officer Slager and tried to take his stun gun immediately before the fatal shooting, and running from a cop attempting an arrest was, at least traditionally, a circumstance that could permit the use of deadly force.
So we’ve found our unicorn, examined it closely… and it turns out to be a farce, not a tragedy. The cop was stupid and jumpy — not malevolent. The shooting victim was a good guy; he survives. Everyone takes a bow and goes home. And Dave Barry has fodder for next week’s humor column.
UPDATE: Subsequent reports have confirmed that the shooting of Mr. Kinsey was an error resulting from poor aim.