Emile Hollant, the North Miami police commander in charge during the accidental shooting of behavioral specialist Charles Kinsey, was fired Friday — almost 16 months after the city claimed he abandoned his post during a police confrontation with an autistic man in an episode that touched a national nerve.
Hollant, 55, had been suspended with pay since the August 2016 shooting. He was let go Friday after interim North Miami Police Chief Larry Juriga and City Manager Larry Spring determined that the commander falsely claimed to not have witnessed the incident.
Their decision came despite Hollant being exonerated by the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office, which found Hollant had returned to his car to retrieve a pair of binoculars to get a closer look at the scene when Kinsey was shot.
“The city manager has authorized me to terminate your employment,” Juriga wrote in a memo sent to Hollant Friday. “We have determined that you are not fit to serve in a sworn capacity.”
The firing of Hollant, who filed a $5 million lawsuit against the city two weeks ago claiming that the city violated his civil rights, inflicted emotional distress and punished him for being a whistle-blower, was met with an immediate rebuke from Hollant’s attorneys, Michael Pizzi and Ben Kuehne.
“In a blatant act of retaliation, the city of North Miami sunk to a new low and fired police commander Emile Hollant,” they wrote. “Hollant has been completely exonerated by all investigations in connection with the tragic shooting of this unarmed caretaker, and it is disgraceful that the City has fired Hollant because he was truthful and blew the whistle on what actually occurred.”
Hollant was the on-scene commander when Arnaldo Rios, a severely autistic man, wandered from the North Miami facility that cared for him. A passing motorist noticed him sitting in the middle of the roadway and called police, concerned he might hurt himself.
By the time police arrived, Kinsey had found his patient, who was still sitting upright and playing with a silver toy truck. Police ordered both men to the ground. A cellphone video taken from a nearby apartment caught the exchange with police. Kinsey, wearing shorts and a bright yellow shirt, obeyed the command and lying on his back, raised his hands high in the air. But Rios stayed upright and kept playing with his truck.
The video captured Kinsey begging police not to fire and explaining that Rios was autistic and didn’t understand them. He also asked Rios repeatedly to lie down. Rios ignored him and kept fidgeting with the truck. That’s when SWAT officer Jonathon Aledda fired four times, one bullet striking Kinsey in the leg.
During the exchange, Hollant claimed he raced back to his patrol car to get his binoculars so he could have a clearer look at whether Rios actually had a gun. But Aledda fired before he returned.