A North Miami police commander did not lie about his whereabouts during the high-profile police shooting of healthcare worker Charles Kinsey, prosecutors concluded Thursday.
The decision came almost two weeks after North Miami’s city manager announced the suspension of Emile Hollant, telling the media that the police commander gave “conflicting statements” about his role in the investigation.
But the State Attorney’s Office, in a two-page memo, said Hollant did not lie when he told investigators that he was not a witness. That was true, because Hollant had actually run back to his police car over a block away to grab binoculars when another North Miami police officer shot and wounded Kinsey, the state said.
“At best, the allegation that he provided inconsistent statements to investigators or command staff officers appears to have been the result of simple miscommunication,” prosecutors wrote.
Hollant won’t face any charges relating to any obstruction of an investigation.
North Miami Police Chief Gary Eugene told Miami-Dade prosecutors “he currently believes that the suspension was in error and that he had been misinformed by his command staff.”
The release of the memo came one day after Kinsey filed an excessive-force lawsuit against North Miami Police Officer Jonathan Aledda. The conclusions are bound to cast further scrutiny on how North Miami city leaders have handled the much-publicized shooting of an unarmed black man who was trying to protect an autistic man from police bullets.
A North Miami spokeswoman declined comment, saying city leaders were still reviewing the state’s findings.
The shooting garnered international headlines against the backdrop of increased attention on police shootings of black men across the nation, some of them captured on video.
The video footage of Kinsey’s shooting, taken by a neighbor, was particularly disturbing because he had his hands in the air as he pleaded with officers not to shoot.
North Miami officers were summoned to the scene by a 911 caller who reported what appeared to be a disturbed man armed with a handgun. It was actually a silver toy truck. The man was 24-year-old Arnaldo Rios, a severely autistic man who had wandered away from a group home and sat down in the middle of the street. Kinsey was trying to coax him back to the facility when police arrived.
As police barked for Rios to put down what they believed was a weapon, Kinsey could be heard hollering: “I’m a behavioral therapist at a group home. There’s no need for guns.”
North Miami’s police union president insisted that officers believed, mistakenly, that Rios had a gun and was threatening to harm Kinsey. Investigators believe that it was Hollant who, on a radio dispatch, reported that the man appeared to be loading his firearm.
But Hollant told investigators that after he gave that radio dispatch, he left. “He had returned to his police vehicle, over a city block from the location of the victims of the shooting, to retrieve his binoculars when he heard gunshots” a few minutes later.
Hollant, the patrol commander that day, told prosecutors “that when he told members of the department that [he] was not a witness, he meant that he did not observe the shooting itself.”
A few days after the shooting, North Miami city leaders announced at a press conference that Hollant had been suspended — without pay.
“By giving misinformation to this department, he not only jeopardized Mr. Kinsey’s life and the life of his client, he jeopardized the life of every police officer that serves this city,” North Miami Councilman Scott Galvin told the media at the time.