(Reuters) – A Florida jury on Monday night acquitted a North Miami police officer of two felony charges of attempted manslaughter in the shooting of an unarmed caretaker for an autistic man who was holding a toy truck, media reports said.
The officer fired at the autistic man, thinking that a shiny toy truck he held was a gun. He missed the autistic man but hit his therapist, Charles Kinsey, who was laying on his back in the street with his hands up, complying with police orders. Kinsey, who is black, was shot in the leg.
The case gained national attention after cellphone video of the incident emerged and went viral on the Internet.
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, court documents say.
Aledda was one of six officers who responded to the call. He testified at the first trial that when he fired his gun, he was aiming at Rios because the autistic man had turned and pointed the object at Kinsey.
Aledda testified that he believed Rios was going to shoot. That trial ended with a hung jury.
In the second trial that ended Monday night, jurors deliberated for about three hours and cleared him of the felonies, but convicted Aledda of one misdemeanor count of culpable negligence, the Miami Herald reported.
That charge carries a penalty of up to one year in prison.
Reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta, editing by Larry King