Testimony from the chief of the North Miami Police Department paints the picture of a culture of incompetence and corruption being exposed as the investigation into the shooting of an autistic man’s caregiver continues.
Moments before North Miami Police Officer Jonathan Aledda shot unarmed behavioral technician Charles Kinsey last July 18, another cop on the scene warned there was no gun, only a toy.
After the shooting, an assistant chief repeatedly lied to the police chief, and City Manager Larry Spring ignored vital evidence.
Moreover, the crime scene was mismanaged, and the police department and city government were in disarray and plagued by infighting.
Those are among the stunning revelations in an hourlong audio recording of North Miami Police Chief Gary Eugene’s interview with Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) investigators, which was obtained by New Times Tuesday.
The shooting of Kinsey, who was caring for an autistic man, became a national flashpoint in the Black Lives Matter movement thanks to cell-phone footage that showed him with his arms in the air while, lying on the ground, and begging police not to shoot just before he was hit in the leg.
The revelations in Chief Eugene’s interview raise a burning question: Eight months after the shooting and four months after state investigators closed their probe, why has Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle still not charged anyone involved?
“We are very close to coming to a decision,” says Ed Griffith, a spokesperson for Rundle’s office.
“It’s pretty damning what’s in that tape,” says Michael Joseph, an attorney representing Emile Hollant, a North Miami Police commander who was suspended after the shooting and who is suing the city over his discipline. “The police chief outlines rogue officers in that department and other rogue officials. Something has to be done about this. The city has to do the right thing here and clean house.”
After the shooting, union officials justified Aledda’s actions by saying he thought the autistic man with Kinsey had a gun, not a toy truck. But Eugene’s interview with FDLE contradicts that claim. (This past Tuesday, the North Miami Police public information officer declined to comment on behalf of the city manager, Spring.)
“I heard the shooter, Officer Aledda, make a statement to the nature of ‘Be advised, I have clear shot [of] subject,'” Eugene said, describing the audio of the police radio just before the shooting. “Later on, a sergeant… got on the air and said, ‘I have a visual; it is a toy. Is it a toy? QRX.’ That means ‘Stand by; don’t do anything.’ Then there is a conversation back and forth. The next transmission was by [another officer saying] ‘Shot fired!'”
Eugene’s description comes in an hourlong interview that centers on the bizarre aftermath of the case. He doesn’t pull punches about the state of the department. Eugene, a veteran City of Miami cop who had been sworn in as chief only six days before the Kinsey shooting, says training was lax and infighting rampant.
“The scene was a mess, to be honest with you,” he tells investigators of the Kinsey shooting. “People were walking all over the place. Thank God [Kinsey] did not die. I realized I have a problem with the training of my staff. We’re talking about some 15- or 16-year veterans, but in North Miami, a 15- or 16-year veteran may have less experience than a two-year cop in Miami.”
We excoriated both Aledda’s decision to fire and the incompetence of his shooting from the moment the shooting happened. It was unconscionable and clearly unjustified and should result in criminal charges. Officer Eugene’s testimony paints a stark picture of a department wildly out of control, where officers are corrupt, and where many are grossly undertrained.
The culture of the North Miami Police Department is in need of a shakeup, and it looks like firing and retraining is very much in order. No city’s citizens should tolerance incompetence, poor training, and the corruption that seems self-evident here.
It’s time to clean house.