North Miami Police Chief Gary Eugene, who has been suspended and asked to resign, has delivered notice to the city that he intends to sue. The notice says he is accusing the city of defamation and of punishing him as a whistleblower.
City Manager Larry Spring said the action against Eugene was in response to the city’s internal affairs investigation following last summer’s shooting of Charles Kinsey by SWAT team member Jonathan Aledda.
He also said it was due to what appeared to be conflicting statements between Eugene’s testimony with the FDLE last year and his interview with the city’s investigators. When Eugene was interviewed by FDLE investigators last year he described a department in disarray and plagued with infighting.
Eugene’s attorney, Brian Pollock, said: “We’re looking at whether or not this was a situation where the chief was retaliated against because he wanted [the Florida Department of Law Enforcement] to investigate. And whether or not he was a whistleblower because he complained about problems in the department.”
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Spring said he hasn’t seen or received the notice and is waiting on Eugene’s response to a pending separation agreement.
“I provided him with an offer of separation that’s due on July 7 and I’m waiting to hear his reaction to that,” Spring said.
The city’s investigation centered on Cmdr. Emile Hollant who was fired on June 14, pending a hearing.
The shooting took place last July when Aledda fired his rifle and struck Kinsey in the leg as Kinsey lay on his back with his arms in the air.
Kinsey was lying next to Arnaldo Rios, a severely autistic 27-year-old man whom Kinsey, who was sitting in the middle of the road playing with a shiny toy truck.
During the Miami-Dade state attorney’s investigation, Hollant said that he was told the shiny object in Rios’s hand might have been a toy and that he was headed for his patrol car to get binoculars so he could have a more clear view, when Aledda fired at Kinsey.
The city found that the commander misled Eugene by saying he wasn’t present during the shooting which contradicted the State Attorney’s Office findings. The state attorney concluded that Hollant was being truthful when he said wasn’t at the scene when the shots were fired.
The city based its findings, in part, on Eugene’s statement during the Internal Affairs investigation that “the commander completely lied to me.” The chief now says that he was referring to his initial thoughts on the situation and wishes investigators would have asked for clarification.
“I was referring to after I spoke to Assistant Chief Larry Juriga [last year], I really thought the commander lied to me,” Eugene said.
The lawsuit from the chief would be the latest in several legal actions taken against the city since last summer’s shooting.
Hollant gave notice of his plans to sue in February, but has not filed.
Kinsey filed a federal lawsuit last August against Aledda, Hollant, other officers and the city as defendants. And earlier this month, an attorney filed a lawsuit on behalf of Rios’ family against the city and multiple officers.
Kinsey and Rios both say in their lawsuits that the police used excessive force and wrongfully arrested the men after the shooting.