More than a year and a half after a North Miami policeman shot a behavioral therapist in the middle of the road as he tried to coax an autistic man back into a group home — a shooting that roiled the police department — the city has finally named a new top cop.
Larry Juriga Jr., who has been with the North Miami police department for 24 years after starting as a patrol officer in 1994, will assume the title immediately. He is following in the footsteps of his father, Larry Juriga Sr., who retired in 1996 from the department as deputy chief.
“I am extremely humbled, honored and so proud to serve the city I grew up in and it’s an absolute privilege to work with the great men and women in the department,” Juriga Jr. said Thursday night. “We are moving forward together as one department and one community. I am ready to get to work.”
Juriga, who got his first job with North Miami in 1987 in the Parks and Recreation Department, has served as acting chief since May 2017 when former Chief Gary Eugene went on medical leave. He continued as acting chief after Eugene was fired in June for the handling of the Charles Kinsey case.
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In July 2016, then-North Miami officer Jonathan Aledda shot Kinsey even though he was lying on his back on the street with his hands in the air. Kinsey, who was shot in the leg, was trying to get Arnaldo Rios, a severely autistic man, to respond to police commands. Rios sat on the street playing with a silver toy truck. Neither of the two were armed, although a call to police before the shooting indicated otherwise.
Kinsey, who is black, begged officers not to shoot, but Aledda opened fire. A bystander captured part of the confrontation on video that went viral amid other incidents around the country involving policemen shooting black men.
The head of the county’s police union said at the time the officer had taken aim at Rios but missed and hit Kinsey.
Aledda has since been charged with two felony counts of attempted manslaughter, and two misdemeanor counts of culpable negligence. The trial is pending.
Cmdr. Emile Hollant, who was in charge during the shooting, was also fired.
The city began a nationwide search for a new chief and received more than 20 applications including from Juriga and the department’s other assistant chief, Robert Bage.
Juriga said the department has taken significant steps to improve the department since the incident including community outreach, mandatory training for officers in dealing with people on the autism spectrum and enlisting the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate police-involved shootings.
“It was a challenging time for us to work through and we are progressing,” he said. “We are all about teamwork and inclusiveness as we progress to let the community continue to build its confidence and trust in us through our engagement with them.”
Councilman Scott Galvin said he thinks city manager Larry Spring’s decision to hire Juriga is the right move for the city.
“It’s nice to see someone who’s moved up the ranks,” Galvin said.