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'I believed it was a gun.' Cop testifies why he fired at autistic man holding toy truck

Charles Rabin and David Ovalle, Miami Herald on

Published in News & Features

MIAMI -- For the second time in three months, a North Miami police officer took the stand to insist he had no choice but to shoot at a severely autistic man holding a silver toy truck, inadvertently hitting the man's unarmed caretaker.

Officer Jonathon Aledda told jurors on Monday that he believed that Arnaldo Rios Soto, sitting in the middle of a North Miami intersection, was wielding a pistol and was on the verge of shooting Charles Kinsey, who was lying on the pavement with his hands in the air, yelling.

"I believed it was a hostage situation," Aledda testified. "It appeared he was screaming for mercy or for help or something. In my mind, the white male had a gun."

Taking cover behind a car about 50 yards away, Aledda fired three shots, missing Soto but hitting Kinsey in the thigh.

His shooting of an unarmed black man with his hands in the air sparked disbelief and outrage nationwide during a time of heightened scrutiny of police tactics, particularly against minorities. Bystander video of the African-American Kinsey begging officers to not shoot went viral, and the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office charged Aledda nearly nine months later.

On Monday, Aledda said he had no idea that Rios was autistic. He said he stopped firing when Rios held up the silver object.

 

"I realized it doesn't even have a grip on it. It's not even a real gun," Aledda said.

Aledda's first trial was declared a mistrial in March after jurors deadlocked on three of four charges. He was acquitted of a fourth, a misdemeanor count of culpable negligence. The police officer is facing two charges of felony attempted manslaughter and one count of misdemeanor culpable negligence.

Aledda is the first police officer in Miami-Dade to be charged with an on-duty shooting since 1989.

The shooting unfolded on a blazing hot day in July 2016, when the 26-year-old Rios ran away from a North Miami group home where he lived. In his hand was the silver truck, one of his favorite toys.

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