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Arnoldo Rios was a police target because of his autism.
Arnoldo Rios was a police target because of his autism and their ableism.

Ableism and anti-blackness led police to aim for autistic man Arnoldo Rios earlier this month.

When you’re Black and autistic and the police are anti-Black and ableist, you’re in trouble. 

Recently in  the news, there was a story about a behavioral therapist by the name of Charles Kinsey was shot by police accidentally while trying to protect his autistic client, 21-year-old Arnoldo Rios.

When asked about why he shot Kinsey, the police officer in question first said, “I don’t know.” It was later he mentioned that he was trying to  shoot Rios, who had escaped from an assisted living center, because the officer thought he was going to attack Kinsey.

Despite the fact that Kinsey wasn’t the actual target, it still did not make it better. Because in the end, the cops still wanted to shoot someone who is marginalized.

This is not the first time that police officers wanted to perpetuate violence against disabled folks. In another case from 2013, a 22-year-old man by the name of Gilberto Powell, who was also Miami-based, suffered police brutality after officers attacked him for having a “bulge” in his bag — that turned out to be a colostomy bag. This is one of many more incidents where the intersections of anti-blackness and ableism come into play.

Related: If You’re Unarmed, Not Resisting, With Your Hands Up, You’ll Still Be Shot When You’re Black

Often, people are told that police officers are here to “protect and serve,” but what they do instead is invoke fear and perpetuate a variety of -isms that result in them using violence to assert their power. They are often not equipped or trained well enough to help a disabled person in crisis mode — instead, they look to the gun for control.

So here’s the bottom line: just because the autistic person was the officer’s target, this does not make it okay. As someone who is also autistic, I could’ve been in Rios’ position. And who knows, the police officer would’ve had better aim. Black bodies and disabled bodies are the least valued. Intersect the two and then you are are invisible from both communities.

This is not okay.


Mickey Valentine is an activist of Jamaican descent born and raised in the Bronx, NY and currently lives in Somerville, MA. Some things (besides angry) that can describe them : a polyamorous, nonbinary, queer disabled femme who promotes the importance of honesty and vulnerability. They’re down to talk about animation, youth development, kink, gentrification, disability justice and reproductive justice-related things.

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