North Miami police Officer Jonathan Aledda is facing charges of attempted manslaughter and negligence for shooting a behavioral therapist who had been trying to help a patient with autism return to a group home last summer, prosecutors say.
The daytime shooting took place last July, when therapist Charles Kinsey was working to bring a 27-year-old man in his care back to the group home for mentally disabled adults. Video from the scene showed Kinsey lying on the ground next to his patient, his hands in the air, shortly before he was shot.
Coming after a string of high-profile shootings of unarmed black men by U.S. police officers, the shooting ignited debate in Florida's Miami-Dade County and beyond over whether it was an accident or part of what looked to be a disturbing trend.
The inquiry into the shooting was performed by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, at the request of both North Miami police and the state attorney's office.
Kinsey's patient, identified by prosecutors as Arnaldo Soto, had wandered from the home holding a toy tanker truck — and when he pointed that object toward a motorist, the police were called. Moments later, Kinsey saw police officers arrive and arm themselves with assault rifles, according to the arrest warrant sworn out against Aledda.
That left Kinsey in the street pleading with Soto, whom the warrant describes as "'nonverbal' and prone to displays of violence and aggression, to cooperate and lie down on the pavement — to no avail.
As the lead investigator's affidavit describes, the officers had been called to the scene expecting to confront a suicidal man armed with a gun. They were not told the man might be mentally ill or that there was some uncertainty over him holding a gun, the warrant states. At one point, a commander said the man looked to be loading a gun — but another officer relayed information from Kinsey, who said the man was holding a toy.
Aledda was positioned some 150 feet away — too far from Soto and Kinsey to hear what either was saying, the warrant states — but over the radio, officers were questioning the presence of a gun.
At 5:06:55 p.m., the warrant states, "Officer Bemadeau said over the radio, "I have a visual does not appear to be a firearm. Have units (standby)."
But at 5:07:25 p.m., the commander on the scene announced, "shots fired."
In the wake of the shooting, a police union official said Aledda had fired at the autistic man out of concern for Kinsey's life — "And he missed, and accidentally struck Mr. Kinsey."
In an interview from his hospital bed, Kinsey said he was handcuffed and was left face-down on the ground, bleeding from a wound to his leg, for around 20 minutes.
Being shot had surprised him, Kinsey said: "I'm saying, 'Sir, why did you shoot me?' and his words to me, he said, 'I don't know.' "
In addition to the felony charge of second-degree attempted manslaughter, Aledda faces a misdemeanor charge of culpable negligence over injuries to Kinsey.
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