Unless you have been living under a rock, you have heard about the caretaker of an autistic man who was shot by police while on the ground with his hands in the air. Officials now claim that the trigger-happy cop was actually trying to shoot the man with autism because of the scary toy truck he had in his hand, and ended up shooting Charles Kinsey, the man he was trying to protect, by accident.
However, we have heard very little about the man Kinsey was caring for. Up until now, all we knew is that he had wandered out of his group home and Kinsey was trying to coax him back in when police showed up. They ordered both men to the ground. Kinsey promptly complied, lying on the ground and raising his hands in the air. His patient, though, didn’t understand what was happening and simply sat down beside his trusted friend. In his hands he held the toy truck that the cop would decide must be a weapon, prompting him to fire three shots from a military-style assault rifle.
Now, Gladys Soto, the mother of that autistic man is speaking out. The first thing she had to say? My son is not just “an autistic man,” he has a name: Arnaldo Eliud Rios Soto.
He can’t be just ‘the autistic man’ anymore,” said the family’s attorney, Matthew Dietz. “It makes his life have no value.
She was watching the events on television, in disbelief that it could be her son sitting in the street as the shots rang out and horror unfolded around him. It would be hours before she was even able to get word on her son.
I feel like my wings have been cut off, and it’s the end of everything,” Soto told the Miami Herald Saturday morning. “It’s too emotional to see your baby caught up in something like this.
Gladys said that the terrifying event has traumatized her son. On Tuesday, Rios wandered away from his home yet again. Where did he go? Straight back to where his caretaker had been shot. He threw himself to the ground, rocking back and forth rhythmically, and shouting, “I hate the police. I hate the police.”
He has been hospitalized in the psychiatric wing of Aventura Hospital ever since. It was Friday night before Gladys got to see her son. When she finally got to visit him, she found him wearing the same dirty, blood stained clothes he had worn during the shooting.
After Kinsey was shot and handcuffed, Rios was treated like a criminal as well, despite the fact that his caretaker had been desperately trying to explain to the police that Rios was his patient since they had arrived.
Clinton Bower, the director of MCAtown, the group home where Rios was living, said police told him that Rios “was acting loopy.” They added that he kept talking to them about Disney characters. “They clearly couldn’t see he was a person with autism or another disability.”
Police shoot! Police shoot! Police shoot Charles,” he kept shouting, Bower said. “It was horrible.
Gladys said that she had no intention of becoming a national symbol. She only wanted what every mother wants – to protect her child. “It is me against an entire system,” she said. “I feel alone and weak, like a little soldier fighting against an entire army.” She was already trying to move her son to another group home when he wandered away and found himself facing gunfire, but there are very few of these facilities in Florida and she wasn’t given many options.
Michael Alessandri, who heads the Center for Autism and Related Disorders, or CARD, at the University of Miami, said the lack of programs and facilities in the state does a disservice to people like Rios.
I have employees resigning. I have families of people we have served who are concerned and want to pull their loved ones from the group homes now.I clearly understand where Ms. Soto is coming from,” Bower said. “I empathize with her. I am 100 percent behind her. I feel her pain and I feel her shock. This had to be the hardest thing in her life to see. It was for me.
Gladys said she feels terrible for Kinsey, who was the staff member her son had connected with the most and is outraged at the wounds both men endured.
“Charles was shot physically,” Soto said, “but my son has been traumatized by that incident.”
Featured image via video screen capture