Jury finds North Miami cop who shot at autistic man ‘not guilty’ of misdemeanor
Prosecutors announced Wednesday that they would retry Jonathon Aledda, the North Miami police officer who was nearly acquitted of attempted manslaughter for shooting at an autistic man with a toy truck.
Jurors earlier this month deadlocked on three of four charges against Aledda, forcing a judge to declare a mistrial. The jury acquitted the officer of one misdemeanor charge of culpable negligence.
The jury’s foreperson told the Miami Herald that five of six jurors wanted to clear Aledda outright.
Aledda’s trial was being closely watched in South Florida because he was the first officer in Miami-Dade to be charged criminally for an on-duty shooting since 1989. During a brief court hearing on Wednesday, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Alan Fine set a tentative trial date of June 3.
“We are deeply disappointed. I think the evidence is clear that five of six jurors voted to acquit within the first five minutes of deliberations,” said Aledda’s defense attorney, Douglas Hartman.
In July 2016, Aledda shot at Arnaldo Rios Soto, a severely autistic man who had wandered away from his group home in North Miami. He was holding a shiny silver toy truck. A motorist mistook the object for a possible gun, and called 911 thinking he might be suicidal.
Officers rushed to the scene and surrounded Rios, while his caretaker, Charles Kinsey, was trying to coax him back to the home.
In a dramatic scene captured on bystander video, Kinsey lay on the ground, begging officers not to shoot, trying to convince them that neither man was armed.
Aledda, taking cover about 50 yards away, fired three shots from his rifle, missing Rios and hitting Kinsey in the thigh. Kinsey survived, and the shooting garnered international headlines during a time of increased scrutiny on officer shootings of black men around the country.
The State Attorney’s Office charged Aledda with two felony counts of attempted manslaughter and two misdemeanor counts of culpable negligence. Prosecutors argued that Aledda was not justified in firing and should have heard radio transmissions by an officer who had already determined that the truck was not a weapon.
But Aledda, at trial, testified that he truly believed that Rios was holding Kinsey hostage. He said he saw Rios turn the shiny object toward Kinsey on the ground.
“At that point, I had to fire my shot. I thought the black male was going to get executed,” Aledda told jurors, adding: “My heart was pounding out of my chest. I’ve never been in the position to take a life to save another.”
After the trial, the jury foreperson apologized to Aledda. “My apologies for not being able to clear you today,” the foreperson told him in the courtroom hallway.