Charles Kinsey, an unarmed black man, was simply trying to help Arnaldo Rios Soto — an autistic man holding a toy truck — out of the street last July when North Miami Police Officer Jonathan Aledda shot Kinsey in the leg.
"We were told that the subject had a toy," police Commander Emile Hollant told investigators with the Miami-Dade County State Attorney's Office on August 2, 2016. Hollant told state attorneys he did not witness the shooting because, after being told that Arnaldo Rios Soto, the autistic man, was holding a toy, Hollant went to his car to get binoculars to get a better look.
While at his car, Hollant said, he then heard shots ring out.
In his testimony, Hollant said he told police Chief Gary Euguene after the shooting that "at the time I ran to my vehicle that was north and west to retrieve my binoculars because they had said that he had a toy in his hands and I wanted to make sure that it was a toy. And, as I was retrieving my binoculars, I heard three shots."
Hollant's statement backs up the account Chief Eugene gave Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) investigators in July. In an audio clip New Times obtained earlier this week, Eugene told FDLE that cops announced "It's a toy! Is it a toy?" and then told officers to stand down before SWAT Officer Aledda shot Kinsey in the leg.
Both statements directly contradict Aledda and the Dade County Police Benevolent Association's account of the events: Dade PBA President John Rivera told the media immediately after the shooting that Aledda believed Rios Soto was holding a gun. Rivera claimed Aledda tried to shoot Rios Soto and simply missed.
After the shooting, North Miami PD suspended both Aledda and Hollant after the city claimed Hollant lied to investigators after the ordeal. But on August 2 — the same day this testimony was taken — the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office cleared Hollant of wrongdoing. He has, however, remained on paid "house duty" suspension since then.
Eugene's recording with FDLE fills in the blanks as to why. The chief claims another cop, Assistant Chief Larry Juriga, lied to him in order to frame Hollant. In the clip, Eugene painted the entire department as scattered, unfocused, and plagued by infighting and petty personal squabbles. He also said that cops wanted Hollant to lie to protect Aledda and that the crime scene was unacceptably messy after Kinsey was shot. The recording also said a second, unseen video of the Kinsey shooting exists.
In addition, Eugene said he had tried to stop the city from suspending Hollant but that City Manager Larry Spring forced Eugene to do so anyway.
Late last night, Spring issued an email to the entire police department about the leaked audio. In the message, he did not reference the actual allegations the chief levied against him — but instead said that every officer has his "full confidence and support." (Spring has declined to comment on the case.)
Likewise, in another letter, City Attorney Jeff Cazeau last night bit into the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office for releasing the Eugene interview while multiple state and internal affairs investigations into the Kinsey shooting remain open. Cazeau's comments echo what City Commissioner Scott Galvin told New Times earlier this week — namely, that city officials are frustrated that they weren't warned before the tape was released and that North Miami is upset that State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle's investigation is taking so long.
"We were surprised to learn that... Hollant's attorney and certain media outlets obtained Chief Eugene's testimony from the SAO [State Attorney's Office], given that we had an in-person meeting just weeks ago with the SAO regarding releasing the very same materials and were instructed not to release the information until we heard from the SAO," Cazeau wrote. He then said that, in response, the city intends to release FDLE's entire, redacted case file.
He added, "We look forward to the conclusion of the SAO's overall investigation of this matter."