A police officer accused of shooting and wounding a severely autistic man’s caretaker, was acquitted on one misdemeanor negligence count and a jury deadlocked on three other charges, including two felonies. A mistrial was declared on those three charges.
The six-person jury found North Miami police officer Jonathan Aledda not guilty of culpable negligence. A second negligence charge and two counts of attempted manslaughter, a felony, resulted in a hung jury.
The jury foreperson said the vote was 5-1 to acquit Aledda of the other charges. The judge scheduled a March 27 hearing to discuss whether the state will retry Aledda on those counts.
Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle released a statement saying she would discuss the case with her prosecutors.
Aledda testified this week that he thought Arnaldo Rios Soto had a gun and was holding his caretaker, Charles Kinsey, hostage. It turned out Rios was holding a toy truck. Aledda insisted he never heard another message on police radio that it wasn’t a gun.
The incident gained national attention after it was partially captured on a bystander’s video.
Arnaldo Rios Soto was filmed on a cellphone video in the summer of 2016 after he walked out of his group home in suburban North Miami and sat in the middle of a quiet intersection holding a silver-colored toy truck that police officer Jonathan Aledda mistook for a gun.
When the video began, the two men are already on the ground, one sitting cross-legged while the other, who is black, lies on his back with both hands extended toward the sky.
Soto, who has autism and is nonspeaking, was accompanied by a behavioral aide, an African American man named Charles Kinsey. When police came, Kinsey lay on the ground with his hands in the air, shouting that Soto was not a threat. Nevertheless, officer Aledda fired, wounding Kinsey in the leg and leaving Soto traumatized.
Soto became famous as an illustration of police violence.
Authorities acknowledged Kinsey was lying in the street with his arms upraised, begging police not to shoot.
“With a lot of power and authority also comes a lot of responsibility,” Miami-Dade Chief Assistant State Attorney Don Horn told jurors during closing arguments Thursday. “The shots that Jonathan Aledda fired were not a misfire. Each shot was intentional while he was trying to kill Arnoldo Rios Soto. Each shot was unnecessary and unreasonable.”
Prosecutors say Rios had left his nearby group home and sat down in the road to play with his toy. A motorist called 911, saying the man was holding what may be a gun and appeared suicidal. Kinsey was trying to coax him back into the home when police arrived and surrounded them.
Aledda, a trained SWAT member, fired, striking Kinsey in the leg.
Aledda’s defense lawyer, Douglas Hartman, blamed faulty radios and poor supervision by the North Miami Police Department for the miscommunications that led to the shooting.
“He had a life-and-death situation. He thought without question that Mr. Kinsey was going to die, be shot and murdered,” Hartman told the jury of five men and one woman.
Aledda is the first police officer charged with an on-duty shooting by Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle, who took office in 1994.
Jury Clears Officer Aledda on 1 Count, Deadlocks on Others