North Miami cop who shot at autistic man rejects plea deal, heads to second trial

The North Miami police officer accused of recklessly shooting at an autistic man holding a toy truck won’t be taking a plea deal.

Officer Jonathon Aledda, who wounded the autistic man’s unarmed caretaker in the controversial July 2016 shooting, on Monday rejected a proposed deal that called for no jail time, one year of probation and giving up his law-enforcement credential.

After Aledda rejected the plea deal, lawyers began picking a jury for the officer’s second trial. Jury selection should take most of the week.

During Aledda’s first trial in March, jurors acquitted him of one misdemeanor, but failed to reach a decision on one other misdemeanor and two felonies. Five of six jurors wanted to acquit Aledda of all the charges, the jury foreman told the Miami Herald after the trial.

Prosecutors offered to allow Aledda to accept a misdemeanor culpable negligence charge in exchange for dropping the two felonies of attempted manslaughter. He declined.

Aledda faces over 60 years in prison if convicted, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Alan Fine reminded him Monday.

He is the first officer in Miami-Dade to be charged criminally for an on-duty shooting since 1989.

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.

Prosecutors 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, took the stand and told jurors that he 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.”