A Florida jury today acquitted North Miami SWAT Officer Jonathan Aledda on one count of culpable negligence after he shot a behavioral therapist, Charles Kinsey, in the leg in 2016. Kinsey was trying to help an unarmed man with autism, Arnaldo Rios Soto, out of an intersection. Rios Soto was holding a silver toy truck, which Aledda claimed was a gun. Kinsey was filmed lying on the ground, placing his hands in the air, and begging cops not to shoot him.
Aledda was charged with four crimes in 2017: two counts of felony attempted manslaughter and two counts of misdemeanor culpable negligence. The jury today reportedly acquitted Aledda of culpable negligence for firing at Rios Soto but could not reach a verdict on the other three charges.
Jury acquitted N. Miami Officer Aledda on misdemeanor counts of culpable negligence, hung on three others for shooting at autistic man, wounding the man's caretaker— David Ovalle (@DavidOvalle305) March 15, 2019
Despite the fact that Kinsey was filmed screaming the supposed gun was a toy, Aledda still pulled the trigger. The case became national news — civil rights activists noted Kinsey did everything possible to avoid getting shot and followed virtually every order the police shouted before Aledda pumped bullets into his leg.
In court this week, Aledda argued he was actually aiming at Rios Soto, the man with autism. The officer believed Rios Soto was holding Kinsey hostage with a gun. Aledda also claimed he did not hear police radio transmissions telling officers on the scene not to fire their weapons.
Aledda was the first police officer charged for an on-duty shooting in Miami-Dade County since 1989 and the first charged under State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle, who has been the county's top prosecutor since 1993. Thirty years ago, Miami-Dade prosecutors charged Miami Police Officer William Lozano with manslaughter after he fatally shot a black motorcyclist.
Lozano's conviction was ultimately overturned. Some prosecutors privately acknowledged the ruling scared them away from trying cops for on-duty killings.
But just last week, a jury convicted former Palm Beach Gardens cop Nouman Raja of manslaughter after Raja shot and killed local drummer Corey Jones in Palm Beach County. Jones' car had stalled on I-95, and while he was waiting for someone to tow his silver Hyundai Santa Fe, Raja showed up in plainclothes in an unmarked vehicle. He shoved a gun in Jones' face, and Jones ran away.
Raja fired six shots, killing Jones. The young man likely died without knowing Raja was a police officer. On March 7, Raja became the first cop convicted for an on-duty killing since Lozano.
This week, it was Aledda's turn on the stand. (Don Horn, the Miami-Dade prosecutor in charge of the Lozano case, also represented the state in Aledda's trial.)
Jury foreperson shook Aledda's hand afterward. "I'm sorry we were unable to clear you," he told the officer. It was a 5-1 vote to acquit of everything. One holdout didn't believe Aledda's testimony.— David Ovalle (@DavidOvalle305) March 15, 2019
The charges against Aledda came just eight days after New Times published damning audio from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement's probe into the shooting. The recording showed Aledda had been told over police radio that Rios Soto was not holding a gun and that cops were not supposed to fire. In the audio, then-Chief Gary Eugene said his department was a mess, that cops failed to adequately secure the crime scene after the shooting, and that North Miami PD was so consumed with factional infighting he worried some cops would fail to protect others on the street. He also claimed his cops tried to force others to lie to protect Aledda. The sworn statement Eugene gave to the FDLE conflicted with the sworn statement he gave to his internal affairs department — the city terminated him days after New Times published the recording.
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After the verdict was announced, State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle's office released a statement saying she was proud of her team of prosecutors and that her office is debating what to do next.
“Since July 18, 2016, our community has been traumatized by North Miami Police Officer Jonathan Aledda’s shooting of mental health therapist Charles Kinsey in his effort to protect his client, Arnaldo Rios Soto," Rundle said. "The difficulties posed by this case are clearly represented by the jury’s inability to come to a verdict on three of the four charged offenses."
She added that prosecutors "will be discussing the case to determine the appropriate course of action as to the unresolved counts.”
This is a breaking story. This post will be updated.