At the first North Miami City Council meeting since a police-involved shooting that put the city in a national spotlight, activists again demanded the removal of the officer who fired the shots.
A few more than a dozen activists from local unions and community organizations addressed the council and staff. They echoed demands made in previous protests calling for the firing of Officer Jonathan Aledda, the man who shot Charles Kinsey, an unarmed behavioral therapist who was caring for a client, in July. His client, Arnaldo Eliud Soto Rios, is a 26-year-old with autism, schizophrenia and an intellectual disability.
They also asked for additional crisis intervention training for officers, more funding for social service organizations and greater involvement by community leaders.
We need some accountability, we’re here for justice for Charles Kinsey, we’re here for justice for Arnaldo Rios.
“We need some accountability, we’re here for justice for Charles Kinsey, we’re here for justice for Arnaldo Rios,” James Valsaint said.
Every speaker then read names from a petition that has tens of thousands of signatures from people across the country.
The shooting of Kinsey as he attempted to tend to Rios revived debates on police training, continued calls for police body cameras and furthered discussion of how police interact with people who have disabilities or mental illness.
“I don’t know the answer, but I do know our hearts have to change,” said Sybel Lee, whose granddaughter died in a drive-by shooting in the city 13 years ago.
I don’t know the answer, but I do know our hearts have to change.
Earlier this month, Kinsey filed a lawsuit against Aledda in federal court.
Also, more details have emerged on the statements police Cmdr. Emile Hollant gave to police investigators after the shooting. The city said he was initially suspended without pay for giving conflicting statements to police investigators but after a State Attorney’s Office memo revealed that he didn’t mislead the command staff or investigators, his pay was reinstated.
Rios was traumatized by the shooting and continues to have nightmares, said his mother, Gladys Soto. Rios has been moved from the Aventura Hospital psychiatric ward to a Central Florida facility for people with complex behavioral problems. The facility has a troubled history, including poor treatment that led to a patient’s death in July 2013.
The City Council members thanked members of the group for sharing their views. While they were mostly sympathetic, the council members also deferred to the ongoing Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigation of the shooting. The department’s investigation is expected to wrap up in the next few weeks.
“We as a council, we are humans and we are made of flesh and bones and blood. So, if you pinch us we will feel the pain; if you stab us, we will bleed just like everybody else. And we do have a conscience,” Mayor Smith Joseph said. “Unfortunately the investigation does not move at the speed of social media.”
At a meeting with community leaders last month, City Manager Larry Spring said crisis intervention training and training to deal with autistic people is already under way for officers and that the police body camera program should be in place by March 2017.
“Whether you have a developmental disability or mental illness, everyone is human and needs to be treated with respect,” Spring said at the meeting.