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Florida appeals court overturns conviction of Miami police officer who shot autistic man’s caretaker

By Amanda Musa, CNN

A South Florida appeals court Wednesday overturned the conviction of a former North Miami Police Department officer who was found guilty of negligence for shooting an autistic man’s caretaker in 2016, court documents show.

Florida’s Third District Court of Appeal overturned a “conviction for misdemeanor culpable negligence” for Jonathan Aledda after determining it was invalid because prosecutors did not allow testimony during a June 2019 trial from the SWAT commander who trained Aledda, the documents show.

In a statement emailed to CNN, Florida State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said the decision is “disappointing to all who believed that this shooting incident was unnecessary and incorrect.” The office may ask the appeals court for a re-hearing, the statement continued.

Eric Schwartzreich and Anthony Bruno, attorneys for Aledda, told CNN, “We look forward to the State dropping the charges or in the alternative to Mr. Aledda being found not guilty.”

In July 2016, Aledda was one of 13 officers who responded to a call about a man with a gun, court documents show. When officers arrived, they encountered Arnaldo Rios-Soto, a man with severe developmental disabilities, and his caretaker Charles Kinsey in the middle of an intersection, according to court documents.

Rios-Soto was rocking back and forth and playing with a silver toy truck, court documents said. Kinsey told the first two officers who arrived that Rios-Soto had a toy. Aledda arrived sometime after that, and some officers on scene said it appeared the toy was a gun.

Aledda’s lawyers argued that he thought he was observing a hostage situation. He shot at Rios-Soto three times but missed, hitting Kinsey once, according to court documents. Kinsey was wounded in the hip.

“He took the shots because he believed that a hostage was in danger,” Schwartzreich and Bruno said in a statement.

Aledda is “elated by the appeals court decision” and wants to return to work as a law enforcement officer, Schwartzreich said.

CNN reached out to the North Miami Police Department for comment but did not hear back.

How the shooting unfolded

An affidavit from the July 2016 shooting stated Rios-Soto had ventured into the street outside a home for people with mental disabilities. Kinsey followed him in an attempt to bring him back inside.

Rios-Soto sat down in the street and was playing with a silver toy truck, which a passerby thought may have been a gun and called police, according to the affidavit.

As armed officers made their way into closer position, Kinsey lay down on the ground with his hands in the air, yelling at police that there was no threat, according to cell phone footage of the incident.

“All he has is a toy truck in his hands. A toy truck,” Kinsey said in the video. “I am a behavior tech at a group home.”

One officer about 15-20 feet away heard Kinsey’s yelling and said over the radio to “use caution” because “the person advised that it’s a toy.” A minute later, that officer said over the radio that he had a visual and that the item did not appear to be a firearm.

Shortly after that, Aledda shot three times, according to the affidavit.

Aledda was charged in 2017 with two felony counts of attempted manslaughter with a deadly weapon, one misdemeanor count of culpable negligence for injuring Kinsey and one misdemeanor count of culpable negligence for endangering Rios-Soto, according to court documents.

In March 2019, a jury acquitted Aledda of the misdemeanor culpable negligence charge relating to Rios-Soto. However, a mistrial was declared because the jury could not reach a verdict for the remaining three charges, court documents show.

During a second trial in June 2019, Aledda was acquitted on the two attempted manslaughter counts but convicted of misdemeanor culpable negligence, according to court documents.

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CNN’s Eric Levenson and Kevin Conlon contributed to this report.

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