A Florida jury recently found a North Miami police officer not guilty of culpable negligence after shooting at an autistic patient holding a toy truck and wounding an unarmed behavioral therapist beside him. Although the officer was charged with two counts of felony attempted manslaughter and two counts of misdemeanor culpable negligence, the jury could not reach a verdict on the other three charges.
On July 18, 2016, North Miami police officers responded to a 911 call concerning a man with a gun threatening to kill himself. When they arrived at the scene, police found Charles Kinsey talking to an autistic patient named Arnaldo Rios who had wandered off from a nearby mental health clinic. Instead of holding a gun, the autistic man sat in the street playing with a toy truck.
“All he has is a toy truck in his hands,” Kinsey attempted to explain to the officers in the video. “I am a behavior tech at a group home. That’s all this is. There is no need for guns.”
Kinsey remained lying on the ground beside Rios with his empty hands in the air when Officer Jonathan Aledda suddenly fired three bullets at them without provocation. Shot in the thigh for no justifiable reason, Kinsey was placed in handcuffs and denied medical attention for approximately 20 minutes.
According to the other officers at the scene, Rios was clearly playing with a toy truck instead of a gun. Taking cover within 20 feet away from Kinsey and Rios, officers Kevin Crespo and Alens Bernadeau realized the autistic patient was not a threat as Kinsey continued attempting to de-escalate the situation.
At 5:06 p.m., Bernadeau said over the radio, “The person advised that it’s a toy – it’s the toy, uh, car.”
Moments later, Aledda stated, “I have a clear shot of the subject.”
As Bernadeau approached Kinsey and Rios, he radioed, “I have a visual. Does not appear to be a firearm. Have units.”
Before Bernadeau and Crespo could place Rios in handcuffs, Aledda abruptly fired three rounds from his M4 carbine rifle. Although Aledda claimed that he was aiming at Rios, he missed and accidentally shot Kinsey in the leg.
When Aledda shot Kinsey, the unarmed man immediately asked the officer why he shot him in the leg. Aledda reportedly answered, “I don’t know.”
According to Officer Kevin Warren and the other officers at the scene, none of them felt their lives were in danger in the moments before Aledda suddenly opened fire. Shortly after Kinsey was shot, Rios stood up and continued shouting with the toy truck in his hands.
Instead of shooting at Rios again, Aledda stated over the radio, “Be advised, it’s a toy truck.”
While recovering from his physical injury, Kinsey filed a federal lawsuit against Aledda for wrongful arrest and use of excessive force. Suffering from mental and emotional trauma, Rios continued to experience night terrors while repeatedly waking up screaming about police and blood.
In 2017, Aledda was charged with two counts of felony attempted manslaughter and two counts of misdemeanor culpable negligence for shooting Kinsey. On Friday, a jury found Aledda not guilty of one count of culpable negligence but could not reach a verdict on the other three charges.
“We’re disappointed with the overall verdict but anytime he’s acquitted on the only count that they reached a unanimous verdict on and they were 5 to 1 on acquittal for the other three,” defense attorney Douglas Hartman told NBC6. “I think he’s disappointed. He was hoping to be acquitted, to go home to his wife and baby.”
“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,” Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said in a statement. “My prosecution team and I will be discussing the case to determine the appropriate course of action as to the unresolved counts.”
The judge has scheduled a hearing on March 27 to determine how to proceed with the other three charges.