Severely Autistic Man At Center Of Police-Involved Shooting Files Federal Civil Rights Lawsuit

Almost a full year after cellphone video capturing a shooting involving a North Miami police officer and an unarmed man was released, an autistic man at the center of the incident has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit. 

Arnaldo Rios, a severely autistic 27-year-old with an IQ of 40, sat handcuffed on the ground for 20 minutes after a police officer shot his unarmed caretaker, Charles Kinsey, in July of 2016. 

Cellphone video showed the unarmed Kinsey lying on his back on the ground with his hands in the air. Sitting next to him was his patient, Arnaldo Rios, who was holding a toy truck that officers believed was a gun.

That's when Jonathan Aledda, who has been with the North Miami Police Department for four years, fired his rifle three times. Kinsey was hit once. The officer says he was aiming at Rios, but missed. 

A lawsuit filed in federal court Monday says Rios, whose communication skills are mainly limited to saying “yes,” echoing what others say and repeating quotes from from his favorite movies, was taken to the North Miami police station following the shooting. There, he sat with his hands handcuffed behind his back as an officer interrogated him.

His family says police wouldn’t allow anyone to accompany the man during the interview. A video shows Rios responding to questions in a high-pitched voice that family members say he only uses when stressed. Clearly confused, Rios answered “yes” to almost every question.

You can view that interview, here: 

The lawsuit claims police intentionally inflicted pain and suffering on Rios and that he was was falsely imprisoned. It also argues that Rios was battered and assaulted, that his movement was limited and that the police conspired to imprison and falsely arrest Rios.

Among the arguments in the lawsuit is that 85 seconds after an officer on a police radio said “the object appeared to be a toy” and 35 seconds after it was confirmed visually, “Officer Aledda balanced his Colt M4 carbine semi-automatic rifle on the hood of a vehicle aimed at Arnaldo Rios-Soto intending to kill him and shot three rounds from his rifle.”

Besides Aledda, North Miami police officers Kevin Warren, Angel Requejado, Kevin Crespo and Detective Michael Gaudio, who interviewed Rios at the police station, were named in the lawsuit. The lawsuit also claims that MACtown President Clinton Bower (MACtown being the adult care facility that Rios was being treated at) was denied a chance to speak with Rios while he was in the patrol car and when he was at the police station.

It says that Detective Gaudio told Bower that Rios was being held in protective custody. The video of Gaudio’s interrogation of Rios shows the detective introducing himself to Rios in an interview room. Then the detective spends four minutes asking questions that almost always get a “yes” response.

When Gaudio asked Rios if he wanted to hurt Kinsey, his reponse was “yes.” When the officer asked him what he had in his hand while he was on the road, Rio says “yes.” At one point Gaudio asked Rios if the truck was shiny, black, red or blue. Rios’s response: “Shiny. Black. Red. Blue.”

And finally before releasing him, Gaudio posed this question to Rios: Did you want to hurt anyone tonight? To which Rios responded: “Yes.”

Rios is now being treated in North Florida at one of the few facilities in the state that deals with severely autistic patients. 

Kinsey has recovered from his gunshot wound, but no longer practices patient care. He still lives in South Florida but began his own business.

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