North Miami Cop Who Shot Charles Kinsey Charged With Attempted Manslaughter

Miami-Dade's top prosecutor, State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle, has recently faced a tidal wave of criticism from police-reform activists for her reluctance to prosecute cops who kill on the job. Today, Rundle did something she's never done in her 24 years in office: charged an officer for an on-duty shooting.

The Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office announced it has charged North Miami SWAT Officer Jonathan Aledda with felony attempted manslaughter and misdemeanor culpable negligence after Aledda shot Charles Kinsey, an unarmed black man, in July 2016. Kinsey was simply trying to help an autistic man, Arnaldo Rios-Soto, out of the street when a bystander called 911 and said Rios-Soto might have been holding a gun. Rios-Soto was, in fact, holding a toy truck when Aledda fired his weapon.

A cell-phone video caught Kinsey lying on his back with his arms in the air, repeatedly stressing he was complying with cops, and begging officers not to shoot just before he was hit.

"These charges are the result of a lengthy inquiry which included a prosecutorial review of the police investigation, numerous police and prosecutor meetings to review case evidence, site re-enactments, and the taking of additional statements of police witnesses after the completion of the FDLE investigation," a news release from Rundle's office reads. Aledda's bond is set at $6,000, according to his arrest warrant.

The charges come a week after New Times obtained audio from North Miami Police Chief Gary Eugene's testimony to Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigators, in which Eugene said his officers announced over police radio that Rios-Soto was holding a toy before Aledda shot Kinsey.

Aledda's 25-page arrest warrant now reveals the exact words cops used over police radio. "I have a visual. Does not appear to be a firearm. Have units QRX," the warrant says NMPD cop Alens Bernadeau said over the radio. The warrant explains that "QRX is code for 'stand by.'" The dispatcher then repeated Bernadeau's calls to stand by and not to fire.

The evidence directly contradicts statements from the Dade County Police Benevolent Association, which claimed Aledda fired his weapon because he thought Rios-Soto was holding a gun. John Rivera, the Dade PBA's president, did not immediately respond to a call from New Times regarding the criminal charges.

New Times also obtained a second testimony, from North Miami Police Commander Emile Hollant, which also said the cops were told Rios-Soto did not have a gun before Aledda shot Kinsey.

Rundle's news release reveals additional details that are even less flattering to Aledda: Prosecutors say two cops were within 20 feet of Kinsey and easily able to assess the situation when Aledda fired his Colt M4 carbine rifle from 152 feet away.

In the arrest warrant, investigators fault a Miami-Dade County Police dispatcher, who warned cops that Rios-Soto was holding a gun but did not tell the cops that the 911 caller said she wasn't actually sure what she saw.

"Notably, the transmission did not include important information obtained by the 911 call taken from [caller's name redacted]," the warrant says. "The most significant of which was that [the caller] said she was unsure whether the object in Mr. Soto’s hands was a gun. The transmission also did not include that [the caller] described Mr. Soto as being 'mentally ill,' nor did it alert the officers that a second person was on scene trying to help."

The warrant says that a mere 32 seconds after Officer Bernadeau announced the supposed "gun" was simply a toy, Aledda announced over the radio that he had a clear shot of Rios-Soto.

"211. I have a clear shot of the subject," Aledda told the cops.

The warrant says there were other cops who were far closer, who had much better views of Kinsey and Rios-Soto than Aledda. Twenty-three seconds after Aledda said he had a clear shot of Rios-Soto, Bernadeau repeated there was no gun on the scene.

"I have a visual, does not appear to be a firearm," Bernadeau said. "Have units [stand by]." Two other cops confirmed to investigators that they heard Bernadeau's transmission.

But less than a minute later, just as two cops said they were going to approach Kinsey and Rios-Soto, Aledda fired. The warrant says the semiautomatic rifle he used was his personal gun. It did not have an optical sight, only an iron one, which the warrant says hampered Aledda's vision.

Multiple cops said that the shots confused them and that Rios-Soto hadn't made any strange or sudden movements just before Aledda fired. Another cop assumed the shots must have come from somewhere else, not from a cop.

Kinsey cried out in pain when the bullet struck his leg. Rios-Soto, who had been sitting in the street, stood up and began to scream. Then, oddly, Aledda announced over police radio that Rios-Soto was holding a "toy gun," which was still inaccurate.

“North Miami, uh, 211, he — be advised it's a toy gun," Aledda said. He then incorrectly told dispatchers Rios-Soto needed to be Baker Acted, or involuntarily committed to a hospital. He responded "negative" when asked if anyone had been injured.

"Mr. Kinsey, who was screaming out in pain, was still too far from Officer Aledda for him to hear what was going on at the intersection," the warrant says. Aledda also told another police sergeant: "I'm the one who shot."

Initially, cops claimed Hollant, the police commander, had lied to investigators about the shooting. But the State Attorney's Office cleared Hollant last August, and Eugene also testified to the FDLE that Hollant was innocent. However, he still sits on paid "house duty" suspension while North Miami PD's internal probe drags on.

"The State Attorney has fully vindicated my client Commander Emile Hollant of any wrong doing by only prosecuting Officer Jonathan Aledda for the shooting of Charles Kinsey," says Michael Joseph, an attorney representing Hollant, in a statement. "Nonetheless, the City of North Miami has not reinstated Commander Hollant to active duty nor made any attempts to clear his good name. The City must stop protecting bad cops or officials within its ranks and make things right with Commander Hollant."

The charges are a surprising move for Rundle's office. Last month, she declined to charge four state prison guards who were accused of placing Darren Rainey, a black inmate with severe schizophrenia, into a scalding-hot shower and keeping him there until he died. Angry citizens flooded Rundle's office with phone calls, and civil rights advocates say the case remains a stain on Rundle's legacy as a prosecutor.

A 2012 memo from Aledda's personnel file reveals that Assistant Chief Neal Cuevas, at the time a commander, asked that the department not hireAledda after a background check revealed he'd been arrested for petty theft in 2007. Police also said they had concerns about his psychological review.

Tim Elfrink contributed reporting.

This is a breaking story. This post will be updated.


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