Miami, FL – A jury deliberated for four hours before they found North Miami Police Officer Jonathan Aledda guilty of misdemeanor culpable negligence in the shooting of an autistic man’s caretaker in 2016.
The incident occurred on July 18, 2016 when 27-year-old Arnaldo Rio Soto, a severely autistic man living in a group home for adults, wandered away from the facility carrying a shiny silver toy truck, NPR reported.
Rios sat down in the middle of the street to play with his truck and his caretaker, Charles Kinsey, followed him.
A passerby mistook the silver toy truck for a gun and called police to report that Rios was possibly armed, ABC News reported.
Officers responded to the scene under the belief they might be encountering a suicidal individual and surrounded the residential intersection where Rios and Kinsey were sitting.
A cell phone video filmed by a bystander showed Kinsey laying on his back next to Rios with his hands in the air, begging police not to shoot, ABC News reported.
Rios shouted “shut up” at Kinsey in the video.
Officer Aledda testified on Monday that he mistook the scene for a hostage situation and only shot at Rios to protect Kinsey and other officers, ABC News reported.
“It appeared [Kinsey] was screaming for mercy or for help or something. In my mind, the white male had a gun,” Officer Aledda told the jury. “I couldn’t hear what the black man was saying. In my mind, I thought he might get shot.”
He said that he thought Rios’ toy truck was a gun, NPR reported.
Officer Aledda fired three shots at Rios and missed him, but one of the bullets struck his caretaker. He was ultimately charged with two counts of attempted manslaughter.
In March, Officer Aledda went to trial but the jury deadlocked and the judge declared a mistrial, NPR reported.
The jury in his second trial found Officer Aledda guilty of misdemeanor culpable negligence, but not guilty of two felony attempted manslaughter charges, after four hours of deliberation, ABC News reported.
Stacy Sarna, who served as the jury foreperson in Officer Aledda’s second trial, said that the jury did not necessarily believe what the officer had said, but that they also did not believe that his actions amounted to attempted manslaughter.
“What he was saying was very carefully considered. He was very calculated and practiced,” Sarna said.
The officer is facing up to a year in jail, the Miami Herald reported.
North Miami, where Officer Aledda is employed, is facing lawsuits from both Kinsey and the family of Rios, ABC News reported.
Kinsey’s attorney, Hilton Napoleon II, said he was preparing for the trial in the civil rights case that his client has brought against the city.
Napoleon said that case has taken a toll on Kinsey, who still has shrapnel in his leg and requires physical therapy, ABC News reported.
“There are certain services that he needs that he’s not currently getting,” he said.
Meanwhile, Officer Aledda had hopes that he would be able to keep his job with the North Miami Police Department.
Officer Aledda was offered a plea deal on June 3 that would have let him plead guilty to culpable negligence and get no jail time; however, the officer declined the plea deal because it also required him to give up his police certifications and never be a police officer in the state of Florida again, the Miami Herald reported.
His attorney, Douglas Hartman, said that because the charge his client was convicted of was so minor, the officer should still be eligible to keep his job as a police officers, NPR reported.
But on Tuesday, North Miami Police Major Annmarie Cardona said the department had sent Officer Aledda a letter of intent to terminate, the Miami Herald reported.
The officer was placed on administrative leave without pay pending his termination.
“We respect the criminal justice system and we are empathetic to the feelings of all who have been affected by this tragic incident,” Major Cardona said.