A Miami police officer who shot the caregiver of a man with autism has been found not guilty of felony charges.
A jury found Officer Jonathon Aledda guilty of a misdemeanor for firing his rifle three times at Arnaldo Rios Soto and striking Charles Kinsey, who was the mental health therapist with Soto, the Miami Herald reported. The jury charged Aledda with a misdemeanor count of culpable negligence, according to the publication.
In July 2016, Soto had run away from his group home and was holding a shiny silver toy truck, USA Today reported. North Miami Police Chief Gary Eugene previously told the publication at the time of the incident that the department had received a call concerning a man with a gun who was threatening to shoot himself.
Kinsey ran after Soto and can be seen laying on the ground with his hands raised in the air in the video obtained by the publication. He reportedly tried to tell the officers that he and Soto were unarmed. In a previous interview with WSVN-TV, he told the news station that he did not expect the officers to shoot at him. The officers shot at Soto, but the shots missed and hit Kinsey in the leg, according to USA Today.
“I was really more worried about him than myself … I was thinking as long as I have my hands up … they’re not going to shoot me. This is what I’m thinking, they’re not going to shoot me. Wow, was I wrong,” Kinsey told the news station.
On June 17, Aledda told the jury that he thought Soto was holding Kinsey hostage, which is why he pulled the trigger, according to the Miami Herald.
“I believed it was a hostage situation,” Aledda testified, according to the publication. “It appeared he was screaming for mercy or for help or something. In my mind, the white male had a gun.”
John Rivera, the president of the Dade County Police Benevolent Association, told reporters during a press conference back in July 2016 that Aledda accidentally shot at Kinsey after aiming at Soto. Rivera said he felt that Kinsey’s life was in danger when he decided to fire his weapon, but the bullet hit Kinsey instead, USA Today previously reported.
“Mr. Kinsey did everything right,” Rivera told reporters, according to the publication. “What the officer didn’t know [were] the white individual’s intentions. He thought Mr. Kinsey was about to be killed.”
A trial over the shooting was held in March, where Aledda pleaded not guilty to the criminal charges, NBC News previously reported. The trial was declared a mistrial after the jury found him not guilty on culpable negligence, but were deadlocked on other counts, according to the news station.
In a statement posted to Twitter on June 18, Miami-Dade State County Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle wrote that the case “was a difficult case for all the parties involved and for the people of Miami Dade County.” She thanked the community, witnesses and victims for holding “people accountable for their actions regardless of who they are or what position they hold.”
“Since July 18, 2016, our community has been traumatized by the North Miami Police Officer Jonothan Aledda’s shooting of a mental health therapist Charles Kinsey. Last evening, a jury decided that the shooting was not an error or an accident, but a crime,” the statement read. “We are grateful to each of the jurors for their thoughtful evaluation of all the evidence and thank Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Alan Fine for his professionalism in the handling of this case.”
Douglas Hartman, Aledda’s defense lawyer, told the Miami Herald he was “extremely disappointed” in the jury’s decision.
“We thought he should have never been charged to begin with,” Hartman told the publication.
Aledda faces up to a year in prison, according to CBS Miami. He and his attorneys will appear back in court for his sentencing hearing, the news station reported.
Aledda is the first officer since 1989 to be prosecuted in the county for shooting someone while he was on-duty, according to the news station. In 1993, William Lozano, 33, was acquitted of shooting and killing two Black men during a shooting in Miami in 1989, The New York Times previously reported. The chief prosecutor of the case, John Hogan, told the publication at the time that he hopes the county doesn’t see a case like this ever again.
“It is my sincere hope that Miami never has to have a case like this again,” Hogan told the publication at the time. “If it does have a case like this again, I think it is crucial that we be able to try the case in Miami. For that to happen, Miami has to show the maturity that we have been talking about, and it has to show it this weekend” in “the way it handles this verdict.”
About the Author
Maria Perez is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has an M.A. in Urban Reporting from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She has been published in the various venues, including Newsweek, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, City Limits, and local newspapers like The Wave and The Home Reporter.