MIAMI (AP) — A Florida police officer has been convicted of a misdemeanor but acquitted of attempted manslaughter for shooting at a severely autistic man and wounding the man’s caretaker.
A jury deliberated for four hours late Monday before finding North Miami police Officer Jonathan Aledda guilty of culpable negligence in the 2016 shooting of caretaker Charles Kinsey, who was trying to protect 27-year-old Arnaldo Rios Soto. Aledda faces up to a year in jail but because he was acquitted of a felony, he might be able to remain a police officer.
Prosecutor Don Horn called the verdict “fair,” while Aledda’s attorney said he was disappointed.
“We thought he should have never been charged,” Douglas Hartman said. A March trial had ended with a hung jury.
Kinsey was shot after Rios fled his group home carrying a shiny silver toy truck and Kinsey went after him. Rios sat down in the street, playing with the truck, and a passer-by reported he was possibly armed. Police soon surrounded Rios and Kinsey at a residential neighborhood intersection.
Video taken by a bystander showed Rios sitting with the truck. Kinsey lay on his back next to him with his hands in the air, begging officers not to shoot. Rios shouted “shut up.” The video ended before the shooting.
Aledda, armed with a rifle, took cover behind a car 50 yards (45 meters) away. Two officers who were closer to Kinsey and Rios said they could tell the silver object was a toy, but a commander radioed that it appeared Rios was reloading.
Aledda fired three shots at Rios. Two missed but one hit Kinsey in the leg.
Aledda testified Monday that he thought it was a hostage situation and he needed to fire to protect Kinsey and his fellow officers.
“It appeared he (Kinsey) was screaming for mercy or for help or something. In my mind, the white male had a gun,” Aledda testified, according to the Miami Herald.
Jury forewoman Stacy Sarna told the newspaper that jurors didn’t necessarily believe Aledda, but didn’t think his actions reached the level of attempted manslaughter.
“What he was saying was very carefully considered. He was very calculated and practiced,” she said.
Kinsey and the Rios family are suing North Miami. Kinsey’s attorney, Hilton Napoleon II, said he respects the jury’s decision and is glad they held Aledda accountable.
“It sends the message that before you squeeze the trigger, you need to take into account the lives that could be affected,” Napoleon said.
Napoleon wouldn’t comment on Kinsey’s federal civil rights case against the city but acknowledged that they’re still preparing for trial. Napoleon said the past three years of meeting with prosecutors, investigators and doctors have taken a toll on Kinsey, who still has shrapnel in his leg and needs physical therapy.
“There are certain services that he needs that he’s not currently getting,” Napoleon said.