Last May, North Miami police officer Jonathan Aledda received an outstanding evaluation from a supervisor who called the four-year veteran “enthusiastic and self-motivated” and “dependable, reliable and trustworthy.”
Less than two months later, Aledda’s four-year law enforcement career in the city of 61,000 people would be jeopardized after he fired three shots from an assault rifle — one of them striking an unarmed behavioral therapist who was caring for a severely autistic man playing with a toy truck.
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The dramatic video of Charles Kinsey lying on his back in the road, a black man wearing a bright yellow shirt with his hands raised as his 26-year-old client Arnaldo Rios sat beside him playing with a toy truck, shot across the internet like a bolt of lightning. The video and shooting in Miami-Dade resonated nationwide, adding to the list of police departments around the country under scrutiny for the questionable shootings of several black men. Unlike several fatal encounters last year, the 47-year-old Kinsey survived after being shot in the leg.
Aledda and the union who represents him claim the officer fired his weapon because he believed that Rios’ toy truck was actually a gun.
On Wednesday, Aledda — who has been on paid leave since the shooting — became one of the very few police officers in the state to be charged in a shooting over the past several decades. He was charged with attempted manslaughter and culpable negligence.
Aledda’s personnel file during his five years in North Miami suggests he was an aggressive patrol officer. Aledda, who belongs to the city’s SWAT unit, received numerous commendations and awards over the years and generally led his patrol unit in arrests. He was cleared in the lone Internal Affairs complaint filed against him.
Aledda, 30, joined North Miami in early 2012. His four evaluations since then tell of his fine “instincts and observational skills,” and how his monthly citations usually lead his patrol. He was named the department’s officer of the month in August 2013 and again in October 2014.
Aledda received commendations in August and September of 2014, one for a “textbook felony traffic stop” of two men who had tried to rip off oxycodone from a Walgreen’s and who later robbed a man at a bus stop with a BB gun. He also got an award for tackling a man with a knife who had just robbed a Subway restaurant.
The lone blemish in his more than 100-page personnel file was for an incident at the O’King Grill Restaurant in North Miami in October of 2013. That day, as Aledda was looking for an armed robber, he detained a man named Odilon Celestin, who filed the complaint alleging that Aledda pushed him against a wall twice while interrogating him.
It turned out that Celestin owned the business. But Aledda was cleared by the city’s Internal Affairs department after it determined that Celestin matched the description of the robber and that by not using a Taser or any other device to subdue Celestin, Aledda had used “reasonable force” before the store owner was released.