The trial of a Florida police officer who shot a disabled man's unarmed caretaker got underway Thursday. North Miami officer Jonathan Aledda is charged with attempted manslaughter and negligence for his role in the July 2016 shooting of Charles Kinsey in North Miami.
Video showing Kinsey lying on his back, holding his hands in the air and begging officers not to shoot went viral and drew national outrage. Kinsey, a behavioral therapist, had been trying to coax his autistic client, 26-year-old Arnaldo Rios, to return to the group home he had walked away from. A passerby called 911 when they mistook the toy truck Rios was holding for a gun.
Testifying Thursday, Kinsey said he immediately put his hands in the air when police responded.
"My hands went straight up," Kinsey said, reports the Miami Herald. "I'm letting them know, 'Hey, I ain't no threat.'"
Kinsey said he repeatedly shouted that his client was only holding a toy truck. He said he was "shocked" when he was shot, the paper reports, and incredulous when an officer handcuffed him. He recalled he asked an officer why he was shot, and the officer replied, "I don't know."
Aledda fired three times, and one shot struck Kinsey in the leg near his femoral artery, the paper reports. Had the bullet ruptured it, he could have bled to death.
In opening statements Thursday, prosecutor Reid Rubin painted Aledda as a reckless cop who opened fire despite evidence that Rios didn't pose a threat, the paper reports.
"Having power of life and death, he chose death," Rubin said.
But defense attorneys said Aledda didn't hear radio dispatches suggesting the toy truck was not a gun. Defense lawyer Douglas Hartman said Aledda believed Rios was holding Kinsey hostage and Kinsey was in danger. The defense says Aledda shot Kinsey accidentally.
"This is a life or death situation," Hartman said. "He thinks it's a hostage ready to be killed right in front of him. He had the guts to do it."
The shooting led to the firing of the North Miami police chief and the suspension of a former police commander for allegedly lying about his part in the shooting, reported CBS Miami.
Aledda's trial opened the same day another Florida officer, Nouman Raja, wasCorey Jones. It was the first time in 30 years a Florida officer was convicted for an on-duty shooting.