Fla. cop charged with attempted manslaughter after shooting unarmed therapist
On Wednesday, the Florida State Attorney’s Office announced a warrant had been issued for North Miami police officer Jonathan Aledda for the July 2016 shooting of behavioral therapist Charles Kinsey, 47, while he was taking care of an autistic patient.
Arnaldo Rios, a 27-year-old man with autism, had wandered away from the Miami Achievement Center for the Developmentally Disabled (MACtown) with a toy truck in-hand.
Police arrived at the scene after receiving a report of a possibly suicidal man with “a silver weapon in his hand.”
When Kinsey attempted to return Rios to the center, they were both met by police, who initially mistook the toy Rios was holding as a gun.
Part of the incident was captured on cellphone video, which shows Kinsey attempting to defuse the situation by lying on the ground with his hands in the air. Kinsey pleaded with his autistic patient to get down on the ground while yelling to the officers that Rios was holding a toy, not a gun.
“All he has is a toy truck in his hands. A toy truck… I am behavior tech at the group home. That’s all it is. That’s all it is…” Kinsey can be heard yelling in the footage.
Aledda, a member of the department's SWAT team, then fired three shots from an assault rifle, striking Kinsey once in the leg. Rios was not injured.
After the shooting, Kinsey was arrested without any officers treating his wounds. Aledda was placed on paid administrative leave after the shooting.
The charges against Aledda followed a joint investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) and the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office, which found that Aledda had been informed before he fired that Rios did not have a gun.
"These charges are the result of a lengthy inquiry which included a prosecutorial review of the police investigation, numerous police and prosecutor meetings to review case evidence, site re-enactments, and the taking of additional statements of police witnesses after the completion of the FDLE investigation," a news release from Rundle's office reads.
The arrest warrant says Aledda took cover behind a parked Toyota Camry approximately 152 feet away from the scene. From that distance, Aledda was too far to see what was in Rios’ hands.
The press release from the state attorney’s office says Aledda was “not in a position to correctly assess the situation or in a position to accurately fire.”
Two other officers on the scene, Alens Bernadeau and Kevin Crespo, who were approximately 20 feet away, could see the object in Rios’ hands was not a gun. Bernadeau made an announcement over the radio, warning the other officers: “I have a visual does not appear to be a firearm. Have units (standby),” according to the warrant.
Moments later, Aledda fired three shots from his personal Colt M4 Carbine rifle. One of the shots struck Kinsey in the right thigh, while another struck a wall more than 338 feet away from Aledda’s firing position.
The shots were fired just as Officers Bernadeau and Crespo had left their cover to approach Rios and Kinsey.
“As soon as we do the initiative of moving out, as soon as I actually step out I remembered that the second I moved, about half-a-step, a round goes off, so, I hide [sic] behind cover again,” Crespo said, according to the warrant.
After the shots were fired, Crespo, who had no idea where the shots came from, said, “I didn’t know if maybe I was getting shot at, maybe as an ambush from the apartments next door. I don’t know where the shots were coming from.”
The warrant states that for the entire time that the police were on the scene, Rios did not “exhibit any behavior that compelled them to shoot,” and that his “actions were consistent for the approximately 5 minutes of time that he observed him before the shots were fired.”
After firing the shots, Aledda made a radio transmission, saying, “North Miami, uh, 211, he – be advised it’s a toy gun,” according to the warrant. Aledda also informed the dispatcher, “Subject is a 43,” a code that lets the dispatcher know a person needs emergency mental health treatment.
When the dispatcher asked if anyone was harmed on the scene, Aledda responded, “negative,” as he was too far away to hear Kinsey, “who was screaming out in pain,” according to the warrant.
The warrant alleges that additional footage captured by a witness shows Bernadeau and Crespo were still maintaining their cover at this point, unaware of who fired the three shots moments earlier. The footage allegedly shows the two officers only approached Kinsey and Rios approximately 30 seconds after Aledda made the radio transmission.
This marks the first time in 24 years that Miami-Dade's top prosecutor has charged an officer for an on-duty shooting.
Two weeks after the shooting, Kinsey also filed a federal lawsuit against Aledda, claiming he had used excessive force and carried out a false arrest. The lawsuit claims that Aledda and other officers left Kinsey “handcuffed on the pavement in the hot Florida sun until fire rescue arrived, which was a significant time later.”