Crime

Unarmed black therapist shot by cop thanks jury for finding officer negligent

Man shot by North Miami police officer makes first statement since officer was convicted

Charles Kinsey, the behavioral therapist who was shot by a North Miami police officer while trying to protect his client Arnaldo Rios, speaks with media on June 19, 2019. The officer, Jonathon Aledda, was convicted of culpable negligence on Monday.
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Charles Kinsey, the behavioral therapist who was shot by a North Miami police officer while trying to protect his client Arnaldo Rios, speaks with media on June 19, 2019. The officer, Jonathon Aledda, was convicted of culpable negligence on Monday.

Charles Kinsey, the media-shy healthcare worker shot by a North Miami cop while trying to protect his autistic client, thanked a jury that found the officer guilty of negligence in an incident captured on viral video.

Kinsey, in a rare public statement Wednesday night, also said he believes the officer should find a new line of work. The city, a day after the split verdict, moved to fire officer Jonathon Aledda.

Standing before a row of microphones at the top of the courthouse steps where earlier in the week a jury found Aledda guilty of culpable negligence in the shooting of the unarmed black therapist, Kinsey said the past three years had been difficult as he dealt with depositions, court proceedings and doctor appointments.

“I am glad to know that our community does not condone police officers shooting high-powered assault rifles at unarmed people,” Kinsey said. “The jury understood that there were several things that could have been done differently to prevent me from being shot.”

Kinsey was shot in the leg almost three years ago in the middle of a roadway by Aledda as the healthcare worker lay on his back wearing a bright yellow shirt with his arms raised in the air, an iconic picture freeze-framed from a cellphone video taken by someone in an apartment who was watching the surreal scene unfold in real time. Next to him, sitting cross-legged and fiddling with his silver toy truck, was severely autistic Arnaldo Rios Soto.

Police were called after a driver spotted the two in the street, and reported a man with a possible gun in his hand. The big and bulky Rios had escaped from the healthcare facility where he lived and Kinsey was trying to talk him into returning. North Miami police soon arrived, and Aledda trained his sights on Rios, he told investigators, because he thought the toy truck was a gun and that Kinsey was in danger. But the three blasts from the SWAT member missed the target, one of the bullets lodging in Kinsey’s leg.

The outrage, during a summer when police were facing criticism for several shootings of unarmed black men, came fast. The video of Kinsey on the ground with his arms raised lying next to Rios ricocheted through social media. The Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office charged Aledda with two felony counts of attempted manslaughter and two of misdemeanor culpable negligence.

The officer’s first trial ended in a hung jury. Jurors deadlocked on three of the charges, but acquitted Aledda of one negligence count. A few months later, a new jury convened, and on Monday night found him guilty of the lone misdemeanor charge and not guilty of the two felony charges. The next day, Tuesday, North Miami said they were moving to terminate Aledda and that he had been placed on unpaid leave.

Aledda’s attorney Douglas Hartman said before his client begins the appeal process and fights to retain his job, there will be a status hearing to determine whether he has to serve jail time. After that, Hartman said Aledda plans to appeal the conviction and seek arbitration to keep his job in North Miami.

“The PBA [Police Benevolent Association] is supporting him,” Hartman said. “I would think certainly an appeal is in order.”

On Wednesday, Kinsey, standing next to his attorney Hilton Napoleon, first read from a prepared statement then answered questions. He said he’s suffered an overwhelming emotional toll during the past three years, often not being able to sleep at night. He said he was mistreated by police after the shooting.

“I was just doing my job when I was shot by a police officer. I was laying in the ground with my hands in the air and I was actually trying to help police defuse the situation. Even then, they still handcuffed me after they shot me. They treated me like I was a criminal,” Kinsey said.

Asked if he believed the officer’s explanation that he was aiming at Rios, Kinsey took a few seconds before responding: “If he was aiming at Arnaldo, Arnaldo should have been shot, not me.”

And finally, Kinsey, who now works with adolescents at a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center called Safe Landing, said if there’s been one bright spot the past three years, it was the birth 10 months ago of his child, Charles.

“He makes my day,” he said.

After the shooting, Kinsey filed a civil rights lawsuit against the North Miami Police Department and the city. The case hasn’t gone to trial yet, and Napoleon, Kinsey’s attorney, said they took part in a joint settlement conference this week and were working hard with the city and the police department to reach an agreement.

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