New Recording Paints Damning Picture of Cops Who Shot Charles Kinsey

Update 4/5: Chief Gary Eugene also confirms that investigators have a second, so far publicly unseen video of the shooting.

Moments before North Miami Police Officer Jonathan Aledda shot unarmed behavioral technician Charles Kinsey last July 18, another cop on the scene warned there was no gun, only a toy.

After the shooting, an assistant chief repeatedly lied to the police chief, and City Manager Larry Spring ignored vital evidence.

Moreover, the crime scene was mismanaged, and the police department and city government were in disarray and plagued by infighting.

Those are among the stunning revelations in an hourlong audio recording of North Miami Police Chief Gary Eugene's interview with Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) investigators, which was obtained by New Times Tuesday.

The shooting of Kinsey, who was caring for an autistic man, became a national flash point in the Black Lives Matter movement thanks to cell-phone footage that showed him with his arms in the air while, lying on the ground, and begging police not to shoot just before he was hit in the leg.

The revelations in Chief Eugene's interview raise a burning question: Eight months after the shooting and four months after state investigators closed their probe, why has Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle still not charged anyone involved?

"We are very close to coming to a decision," says Ed Griffith, a spokesperson for Rundle's office.

"It's pretty damning what's in that tape," says Michael Joseph, an attorney representing Emile Hollant, a North Miami Police commander who was suspended after the shooting and who is suing the city over his discipline. "The police chief outlines rogue officers in that department and other rogue officials. Something has to be done about this. The city has to do the right thing here and clean house."

After the shooting, union officials justified Aledda's actions by saying he thought the autistic man with Kinsey had a gun, not a toy truck. But Eugene's interview with FDLE contradicts that claim. (This past Tuesday, the North Miami Police public information officer declined to comment on behalf of the city manager, Spring.)

"I heard the shooter, Officer Aledda, make a statement to the nature of 'Be advised, I have clear shot [of] subject,'" Eugene said, describing the audio of the police radio just before the shooting. "Later on, a sergeant... got on the air and said, 'I have a visual; it is a toy. Is it a toy? QRX.' That means 'Stand by; don't do anything.' Then there is a conversation back and forth. The next transmission was by [another officer saying] 'Shot fired!'"

Eugene's description comes in an hourlong interview that centers on the bizarre aftermath of the case. He doesn't pull punches about the state of the department. Eugene, a veteran City of Miami cop who had been sworn in as chief only six days before the Kinsey shooting, says training was lax and infighting rampant.

"The scene was a mess, to be honest with you," he told investigators of the Kinsey shooting. "People were walking all over the place. Thank God [Kinsey] did not die. I realized I have a problem with the training of my staff. We're talking about some 15- or 16-year veterans, but in North Miami, a 15- or 16-year veteran may have less experience than a two-year cop in Miami."

Fights in the department were so bad, Eugene said, that he worried his cops wouldn't even be willing to protect one another, much less the community.

"I'm afraid one of them will get shot, for God's sake, and someone will call for backup and they'll say, 'I'm not going,' just to tell you how much the animosity is," he said.

Much of Eugene's interview revolves around the suspension of Hollant, a commander who was present at the shooting. The chief paints a dark picture of department infighting, collusion, and incompetence on the part of city officials.

Three days after Kinsey's shooting, North Miami city officials held a news conference announcing that, in addition to suspending Aledda, they had also suspended Hollant. In fact, they were suspending Hollant without pay, while Aledda would be on paid leave. Why? According to City Manager Spring, Hollant had lied to Eugene at the scene by telling him he hadn't witnessed the shooting; in fact, Spring claimed, audio proved Hollant was there.

But Eugene tells a very different story in his interview. He says Hollant was actually suspended as part of a plot by Assistant Chief Larry Juriga, who had an ongoing feud with Hollant.

Eugene said the trouble began July 21, three days after the shooting. That's when Juriga came to his office to tell him that Hollant had lied. Eugene said that Juriga told him: "We found out he had a radio transmission that [Hollant] actually gave the order, that he made a statement that caused the shooter to open fire. I was fuming when I heard that... I made a comment, 'Fuck... I'm going to suspend him.'"

Eugene said he immediately went to Spring and City Attorney Jeff Cazeau with the information. They all agreed to suspend Hollant. But on the drive home, Eugene had second thoughts. He recalled that Juriga and Hollant didn't get along, so he decided to listen to the audio from the shooting himself. That's when he realized Juriga had lied.

The audiotape, indeed, showed Hollant had warned that the autistic man was loading a gun. But that warning didn't spark Aledda to shoot. In fact, several moments passed until another sergeant on the scene warned that the man was holding a toy. Only after that warning did the shooting take place, contends Eugene, who could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

"I heard the sergeant, who advised earlier that it was a toy, say, 'Hold fire! Hold fire! It was a toy,' trying to stop whoever was doing the shooting," Eugene said. "I said, 'Oh Lord.'"

The next morning, Eugene said, he went to Spring's office with the tape to ask the city manager not to suspend Hollant after all. But he said the city manager refused to listen to the audio or to the chief's warnings.

"I said, 'City Manager, I'm telling you, listen to this CD and make a decision based on this CD,'" Eugene said. "[Spring] slapped his hand on the desk and said, 'You don't understand what I'm telling you. Get control of your people!'"

Eugene said he nearly quit on the spot. "To be honest, I came close, I nearly let him know that I was about to resign."

Instead, he reviewed department rules and realized that Spring could suspend Hollant on his own. So, the chief said, he backed off and let the city manager do as he pleased. But Eugene said he was so disturbed by Juriga's conduct that he moved him from his post leading investigations to a position heading code enforcement.

That wasn't the only disturbing thing the chief learned. Eugene said he soon found that before Hollant had been suspended, the commander in charge of the scene during the shooting had tried to intimidate him into changing his story. That commander urged Hollant to say that he had seen the shooting and that the autistic man did seem to be loading a gun. "He talked to Emile prior to the suspension and told him... '[By] not saying you saw the guy loading the gun, do you realize that information could have helped my officer?' They were more concerned about clearing the officer of any wrongdoing than actually getting any impartial investigation."

Eugene said the whole incident was a wake-up call to him about bad training in the department. He reiterated that the Kinsey crime scene was one of the worst managed he'd ever seen. "The scene wasn't well prepared. There was no inner perimeter, no outer perimeter, no media staging area, nothing," he said. When he arrived on the scene, no one briefed him about what had occurred.

Hollant's attorney, Joseph, says the police recording shows his client was wronged by the city manager. Hollant was cleared by the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office, which found that he didn't mislead anyone at the scene. But he remains on paid suspension while the department finishes its investigation of the case.

"I would say this brings a lot of light on how the city manager and city attorney dealt with the situation. This was political, about PR, rather than finding out what happened," Joseph says. "The chief is in a very precarious spot. There's some bad apples there. And he knows my client was done wrong. He's caught in the middle." 
KEEP MIAMI NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Tim Elfrink is a former investigative reporter and managing editor for Miami New Times. He has won the George Polk Award and was a finalist for the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting.
Contact: Tim Elfrink
Jerry Iannelli is a former staff writer for Miami New Times from 2015 to March 2020. He graduated with honors from Temple University. He then earned a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.