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North Miami Commissioner: Rundle Should "Wrap Up" Kinsey Investigation Already

North Miami Commissioner: Rundle Should "Wrap Up" Kinsey Investigation Already
Miami-Dade County State Attorney's Office / YouTube

Earlier this week, the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office released an hourlong interview by North Miami Police Chief Gary Eugene — a move that sparked a new media firestorm over last July's police shooting of Charles Kinsey, an unarmed black man lying in the street with his hands up. In the interview, Eugene describes a police department in disarray, calls the scene of the shooting a "mess," and suggests the shooter knew that the autistic man Kinsey was trying to help held only a toy truck, not a gun as police had feared.

Now North Miami Commissioner Scott Galvin says he's upset that the State Attorney's Office released the tape of the chief's interview without notifying his city first. Moreover, he says his city's government is growing increasingly impatient with State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle's months-long probe into the controversial police shooting.

"If this was the Oscars, I'd be cueing the cut music for them," Galvin says. "They need to wrap this up. They need to vindicate everyone or vindicate someone or just do something."

He adds, "The State Attorney's Office, without notifying the City of North Miami, released critical documentation into an ongoing and open investigation. We're not even clear yet what else... hasn't been released."

The State Attorney's Office has closed its investigation into Emile Hollant, a police commander accused of lying to investigators. (He was cleared of any wrongdoing.) But the parallel investigation into the officer who pulled the trigger, Jonathan Aledda, remains open, as does a North Miami PD internal affairs probe.

In the audio clip, "the chief references several members of his force," Galvin says. "Have they interviewed those people? Is Hollant's testimony available? What is going on and, most importantly, what is the State Attorney's Office doing?"

A spokesperson for Rundle's office, Ed Griffith, declined to comment on Galvin's remarks. Earlier this week, Griffith told New Times that Rundle's office is "very close to coming to a decision" as to whether to charge Aledda with a crime.

But the term "very close" is vague. Rundle's office is famous for letting police-shooting or brutality investigations stretch on for years — the office only closed its investigation into the prison-shower death of Darren Rainey this past March despite the fact that Rainey died in 2012. Charging Aledda would be a first for Rundle: Since taking over as Miami's top prosecutor in 1993, she has not charged a single cop for an on-duty shooting.

Likewise, it has now been eight months since Kinsey was shot in the leg. Kinsey was simply trying to help an autistic man, Arnaldo Rios Soto, out of the street in North Miami last July 18 when a bystander called 911 and warned that Rios Soto might have been holding a gun.

A SWAT team arrived and surrounded Kinsey — who laid down on his back with his hands up. Kinsey was videotaped in this position begging cops not to shoot him and shouting that Rios Soto was simply autistic and holding a toy truck, not a gun.

John Rivera, the Dade County Police Benevolent Association's president, defended Aledda in the days after the shooting. Rivera claimed the cop thought Rios Soto was holding a gun and shot to "protect" Kinsey (even though he accidentally hit him).

After the shooting, North Miami Police suspended both Aledda and Hollant, whom city officials, including Galvin, claimed had lied to investigators. But on August 2, Rundle's office released a memo clearing Hollant of charges and saying he had not lied.

The audio of the chief's interview, which New Times obtained Tuesday, sheds light on Aledda's and Hollant's stories. In the interview, Chief Eugene said another cop at the scene yelled, "It's a toy! Is it a toy?" over police radio and then told officers "QRX," which is department code for "stand by." Aledda shot anyway.

As for Hollant, Eugene claimed North Miami Assistant Chief Larry Juriga framed Hollant because the assistant chief didn't like him. Eugene also said a separate commander wanted cops to lie to protect Aledda, that infighting among cops was getting in the way of basic police duties, and that the scene after Kinsey was shot was a "mess."

Before the audiotape was released this week, Galvin says, city officials in North Miami were already growing impatient with the pace of Rundle's probe. After the shooting, Eugene called in the FDLE to investigate. That department finished its investigation in December, and Rundle's office has had the information since then. Galvin says the city hadn't heard much about the investigation's status — until this week.

"That this information just dropped on the city with no warning was just stunning," Galvin says. "No one knew it was coming. We don't know what to make of it even now. Is this even a fraction of what they have?"

As to the content of the chief's remarks, Galvin says that Eugene "clearly threw the whole department under the bus" but that extra "context" is needed. He says his city's police department is not as dysfunctional as the chief disclosed in private.

"He was speaking a week after this happened and two weeks after he came on the job," Galvin says. "So I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt. It's hard to grasp the entirety of the police department in just two weeks' time in there, and we've done a lot of work training and improving things since then."

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(Eugene has worked for the department since 2013 but was sworn in as chief only six days before Kinsey's shooting.)

Galvin says city employees have already given him feedback about the audiotape "from both sides" of the issue.

"I've had some saying, 'What the heck? Why isn't Hollant back on the streets tonight?'" he says. (Hollant's lawyer, Michael Joseph, told New Times earlier this week that his client is considering suing the department.) "And others saying, 'Oh my God, the chief threw the whole department under the bus. How can he still be in charge over there?' By dropping this info without at least letting us know it was coming, they should have at least given us the professional courtesy of letting us know."

Tim Elfrink contributed reporting.

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