MIAMI – A Florida jury is considering the fate of a police officer who says he fired his rifle when he mistakenly thought an autistic man was holding his caretaker at gunpoint, but the bullet instead struck and wounded the disabled man's caretaker.
North Miami police officer Jonathan Aledda, who is accused of attempted manslaughter, testified this week that he thought Arnaldo Rios Soto had a gun and was holding his caretaker, Charles Kinsey, hostage in the middle of a road in July 2016. It turned out Soto was holding a toy truck, but Aledda insisted he never heard another message on police radio that it wasn't a gun.
The Miami Herald reports the six-person jury got the case Thursday night. The incident gained national attention after it was partially captured on a bystander's video.
Authorities said Kinsey was lying in the street with his arms upraised, begging police not to shoot.
"With a lot of power and authority also comes a lot of responsibility," Miami-Dade Chief Assistant State Attorney Don Horn told jurors during closing arguments Thursday. "The shots that Jonathan Aledda fired were not a misfire. Each shot was intentional while he was trying to kill Arnoldo Rios Soto. Each shot was unnecessary and unreasonable."
Prosecutors say Rios had left his nearby group home and sat down in the road to play with his toy. A motorist called 911, saying the man was holding what may be a gun and appeared suicidal. Kinsey was trying to coax him back into the home when police arrived and surrounded them.
Aledda, a trained SWAT member, fired, striking Kinsey in the leg.
Aledda's defense lawyer, Douglas Hartman, blamed faulty radios and poor supervision by the North Miami Police Department for the miscommunications that led to the shooting.
"He had a life-and-death situation. He thought without question that Mr. Kinsey was going to die, be shot and murdered," Hartman told the jury of five men and one woman.
Aledda is the first police officer charged with an on-duty shooting by Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle, who took office in 1994.
This story has been corrected to say Rios on second reference to Arnaldo Rios Soto.