A North Miami police officer who shot the caregiver of an autistic man in distress, even though the caregiver was lying on the ground with his hands raised in the air, has been convicted on a misdemeanor charge of culpable negligence but has escaped a felony conviction. A jury on Monday dismissed two attempted manslaughter charges against the officer, according to the Miami Herald.
The 2016 incident, part of which was captured in a video that went viral afterward, sparking outrage over the shooting of yet another black man who posed no threat to the police, began when a 23-year-old man with autism named Arnaldo Rios Soto wandered away from a Miami-area mental health center. Charles Kinsey, a 47-year-old therapist from Soto’s group home, caught up to Soto at the side of a road. A passing driver saw Soto, who was holding a toy truck, and called the police, believing the man was holding a gun to his head.
When police arrived, several officers soon realized that neither Soto nor Kinsey posed a threat and that the reported gun was just a toy. Kinsey shouted to the police, “all he has is a toy truck.” He also laid down on the street, arms above his head, begging them not to shoot. At the time of the shooting, Soto was sitting next to Kinsey, still holding the toy.
The officer, Jonathan Aledda, 33, fired three times from around 50 yards away, hitting Kinsey, who later recovered, in the thigh.
Many who watched the video were skeptical that anyone could have perceived that Kinsey or Soto posed any danger, and prosecutors said Aledda had been reckless, ignoring all warnings from other officers and indications that the scenario was not a dangerous one, according to the Herald.
But Aledda testified that he believed Soto was holding Kinsey hostage and was about to shoot the man. He said he had not heard the other officers say the object Soto was holding was just a toy (according to the Herald, one officer testified that he had said so on the police radio; Aledda’s attorneys presented evidence that the officers’ radios hadn’t been working well and that the scene had generally been chaotic). And he said that when he fired his gun, he meant to hit Soto, not Kinsey. “It appeared he was screaming for mercy or for help or something,” he testified, according to the Herald. “In my mind, the white male had a gun.”
Aledda was charged with attempted manslaughter in April 2017. But in March of this year, the first trial ended with a hung jury. Aledda now faces up to a year in prison. Kinsey and Soto, who, according to his family, is traumatized from the incident, have filed lawsuits against the city of North Miami, according to the Herald.