By Brendan O’Brien
(Reuters) – A hung jury was declared on Friday in the attempted manslaughter trial of a Florida policeman charged in the shooting of an unarmed black caretaker for a mentally ill man who was holding a toy truck mistaken for a gun, local media reported.
The six-member Miami-Dade County jury also acquitted the North Miami police officer, Jonathan Aledda, of a single misdemeanor count of culpable negligence in the non-fatal 2016 shooting. The jury failed to reach a unanimous verdict on two counts of attempted manslaughter and a second negligence count, according to media reports.
Prosecutors were not immediately available for comment.
The jury began its deliberations late on Thursday in the trial, which started on March 7.
The case gained national attention after cellphone video of the incident emerged showing behavioral therapist Charles Kinsey, who is black, lying in the middle of a street, complying with police orders with his hands raised, at the time he was shot in the leg.
The shooting by Aledda, who is white, came amid a spate of police shootings of unarmed black men across the United States that fueled a debate over racial bias in the criminal justice system and the use of lethal tactics by law enforcement.
Kinsey had been working as a caretaker for Arnoldo Rios Soto, a 27-year-old man with severe autism who had left a nearby group home where he requires 24-hour attention, according to court records.
By the time Kinsey caught up with Rios on the afternoon of July 18, 2016, police had received a call from a motorist who reported seeing Rios holding what appeared to be a gun but turned out to be a toy tanker truck, court documents say. Based on the motorist’s account, police dispatchers issued a bulletin describing a man with a gun possibly considering suicide.
Aledda was one of six officers who responded to the call. He testified on Wednesday that when he fired his gun, he was aiming at Rios because the autistic man had turned and pointed the object in his hand at Kinsey, who was lying on the ground next to him. Aledda said he, too, believed the object was a gun.
“So at that point I just had to fire my shot, or else I thought the black male was going to get executed in front of me,” he testified, referring to Kinsey.
Asked under cross-examination about a police radio transmission declaring that the object Rios was holding was a toy, Aledda insisted that he never heard it.
Aledda, who fired his gun three times, was the only officer on the scene to use their weapon.
(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Steve Gorman and Tom Brown)