A North Miami police commander who radioed that a man was loading his weapon just before healthcare professional Charles Kinsey was shot was suspended without pay Friday for misleading investigators at the police department.
Sources familiar with the investigation into the incident that left Kinsey hospitalized for several days say Cmdr. Emile Hollant did more than just relay bad information — in a poor attempt to cover his tracks, he told police he wasn’t present when officer Jonathan Aledda shot Kinsey.
“Cmdr. Emile Hollant was placed on leave after evidence of conflicting statements given to the investigators of this specific case,” North Miami City Manager Larry Spring said Friday during a press conference. “This will not be tolerated.”
Hollant’s suspension comes only a week after he was promoted to commander during the same ceremony in which Gary Eugene was sworn in as North Miami’s new police chief.
“By giving misinformation to this department, he not only jeopardized Mr. Kinsey’s life and the life of his client, he jeopardized the life of every police officer that serves this city,” said North Miami Councilman Scott Galvin.
Aledda, a four-year SWAT team veteran, was placed on administrative leave for at least a week, which is customary any time an officer fires his weapon and strikes someone.
On an audio recording obtained by Miami Herald partner CBS4 that purports to be the police radio transmissions just before Kinsey is shot, someone can be heard saying, “He’s loading his weapon.”
It’s not clear on the audio if the officer is referring to Kinsey, or the 24-year-old autistic man seated on the ground next to him, who was under Kinsey’s care.
There was no weapon.
North Miami also released Aledda’s personnel file Friday. Those records show four years of above average and outstanding work, with one internal affairs investigation in which he was cleared.
In 2014, Aledda received commendations for making 28 arrests in one month and for the capture of two men on a robbery spree. A separate internal affairs investigation into Aledda focused on a man’s claim that the officer used too much force during a robbery investigation. Though the man turned out to be a victim of that crime, Aledda was cleared of any misconduct.
Kinsey, a 47-year-old married father of five who has worked at the MacTown Center for the Developmentally Disabled for more than a year, was shot Monday afternoon while trying to coax an autistic man he cared for back into the center.
A 911 call to police alerted them to a man standing in the roadway at Northeast 127th Street and 14th Aveune with a gun, who was threatening to kill himself. When police arrived, they found the autistic man sitting on the ground cross-legged and playing with a toy truck. Kinsey, in a yellow shirt and dark shorts, was standing beside him.
As police took positions behind poles and patrol cars, they ordered both men to lie down and place their hands in the air. Kinsey complied. The autistic man didn’t, at one point yelling at Kinsey to shut up as the healthcare worker begged him to lie down.
A video that shows a portion of the shooting — though not the shooting itself — shows Kinsey lying supine. He can be heard telling police, “I’m a behavioral therapist at a group home. There’s no need for guns.” Then he says, “Reynaldo, please be still Reynaldo. Lay down Reynaldo. Lay on your stomach.”
Then Aledda, who had taken aim with his assault rifle, fired three times. One of the bullets struck Kinsey in the leg. He spent several days recovering in the hospital and went home late Thursday night.
At a time of heightened tensions as videos continue to surface of unarmed black men being shot and sometimes killed by police, the video, which was given to the Miami Herald by Kinsey’s attorney Hilton Napoleon, has sparked worldwide outrage. Though it doesn’t show the shooting, Napoleon said he doesn’t believe it was edited before he received it.
Taken by someone who lives in an apartment complex adjacent to where Kinsey was shot, Napoleon said he received it in two parts. He believes the person who recorded the incident turned the camera off before the shooting, then back on after Kinsey was struck.
The shooting sparked calls for police department policy reviews by the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida and outraged U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson of Miami Gardens, who visited North Miami this week and demanded answers. On Thursday night a group of about 40 Black Lives Matter protesters stormed the North Miami police department and called for the firing of Aledda.
Even presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaign weighed in Friday, calling for national guidelines on the use of force by police. As it stands now, individual states have guidelines, but police departments within the states are allowed to tighten those requirements.
“The sad reality is that African-American men are far more likely to be stopped and searched by police, charged with crimes, or killed in police-involved incidents than white men,” Clinton’s senior policy adviser Maya Harris said in a prepared statement.
Though North Miami and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which is investigating the shooting, have been tight-lipped, the union representing Aledda made a rare admission Thursday.
In an attempt to ease tensions, Miami-Dade Police Benevolent Association President John Rivera said that Aledda was actually aiming at the autistic man on the ground with the toy — but missed and hit Kinsey. The union president said despite Kinsey’s pleas, officers thought that the autistic man’s toy truck was a gun and that Kinsey was in danger.
On Friday, Napoleon said he found the cop’s explanation implausible. He couldn’t understand how a trained SWAT team member not taking fire could be that inaccurate from 50 yards or less.
“If he’s aiming at the autistic kid, how he could miss,” Napoleon said. If that was the case, said the attorney, “he had plenty of time to tell my client to move.”
Napoleon also questioned why, if police were trying to save Kinsey’s life, they rolled him over and handcuffed him as he was bleeding from a bullet wound to his leg.
“They handcuffed him after he got shot,” he said.
Also Friday, Clint Bower, president and CEO at the facility where Kinsey works, called the behavioral therapist a “special hero,’ and said he was “appalled” at Monday’s events.
“Charles is an honest, hard-working and dedicated individual who did everything in his power to de-escalate a very volatile and dangerous situation, while complying fully with the orders of the North Miami police department,” said Bower.
Spring, the North Miami city manager, said Kinsey’s shooting has already created change. North Miami has formed a committee to try to improve its community policing. Among the members of the committee is the Circle of Brotherhood, an advocacy group that works to provide opportunity for black families.
Kinsey is a member.
Miami Herald Staff Writer David Ovalle contributed to this report.