Court Overturns Conviction of Cop Who Shot Autistic Man Holding Toy Truck

A Florida appeals court has overturned a former police officer's conviction for shooting at an autistic man holding a silver toy truck.

In the July 2016 incident, Jonathon Aledda saw Arnaldo Rios Soto holding the toy and said he thought it was a firearm and that he was holding another man hostage, the Miami Herald reported. This caused the former North Miami officer to shoot at Soto, but instead he hit and wounded Charles Kinsey, Soto's behavioral therapist, who was on the ground pleading with police not to shoot at his patient.

The case drew national headlines that year. It then caught the public's attention again a few years later, specifically on social media after George Floyd's killing, when Aledda received what some said was too lenient a sentence—one year of probation, 100 hours of community service and a 2,500-word essay, according to the Miami New Times.

On Wednesday, Aledda's culpable negligence conviction was overturned by Florida's 3rd District Court of Appeals. In its opinion, the appeals court said that the lower trial court had made an error by not allowing the officer to "introduce testimony regarding how Aledda was trained to assess and respond in such circumstances," according to WPGL-TV.

Aledda was one of six officers who had responded to a 911 call from a concerned motorist who said she believed she had seen Soto holding a gun to his own head, according to an arrest warrant. While looking for an allegedly suicidal man, Aledda saw Soto and Kinsey.

Soto was living at a home for adults with developmental disabilities, and Kinsey was his round-the-clock caregiver, according to the warrant. That day, Soto began to "yell and move about the group home," then fled the home with the toy in hand. Kinsey followed to try to get him to come back to the home.

When Aledda saw Soto, he said he assumed Soto was holding Kinsey hostage and fired three times, hitting Kinsey in the leg.

Aledda was charged with attempted manslaughter and culpable negligence nine months after the incident, according to the New Times. After the first trial ended with a hung jury, a second jury acquitted Aledda of the manslaughter charges but found him guilty of the culpable negligence charge, a misdemeanor.

In his sentencing, Circuit Judge Alan Fine of Miami-Dade County ordered the former officer to complete the one-year probation term, the community service and essay. Aledda ended up being released from probation after four months, the New Times report said.

While some said that Aledda's sentence was too light, he argued in his court-ordered essay that he did not have all the information going into the situation. The arrest warrant said the 911 caller told the dispatcher she was not sure whether it was a gun that Soto was holding and also said he was clearly mentally ill. But the dispatcher did not relay that information to the officers.

Update 02/16/22, 12:45 p.m. ET: This story was updated to add more information and background.

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A Florida appeals court has overturned the conviction of a former North Miami police officer who was convicted of shooting at an autistic man holding a silver toy truck. Stock Image/Getty Images