March 16 (UPI) -- A Florida jury deadlocked Friday on three counts against a North Miami Police officer who shot at an unarmed, severely autistic man and hit his mental health therapist in 2016, but acquitted him on a misdemeanor charge.
Jurors voted 5-1 to acquit North Miami Police officer Jonathon Aledda on two counts of felony attempted manslaughter and one count of culpable negligence before the judge declared a mistrial.
The jury acquitted Aledda on one misdemeanor count of culpable negligence for shooting at the autistic man, Arnaldo Rios Soto.
The shooting unfolded when Rios Soto, an autistic patient at a local group home, escaped from the facility and his caretaker, Charles Kinsey, attempted to talk him back to the facility. A bystander called 911 believing that Rios Soto was armed, but he actually had a toy truck in his hand.
When officers arrived, Kinsey told officers not to shoot at Rios Soto, but Aledda fired anyway, missing Rios Soto but hitting Kinsey in the leg. Rios Soto's family and Kinsey are now suing the city of North Miami in civil court.
Prosecutors argued that Aledda's shooting was unjustified because he was 50 yards away and the officers closest to the scene already determined that Soto was not a threat. Aledda, though, said he never heard the response from other officers because his radio equipment was not working properly.
Aledda said he fired when he saw Rios Soto raise a shiny object that he believed to a weapon at Kinsey.
State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said in a statement after the mistrial that the case demonstrated how difficult it is to get a conviction in officer-involved shootings because Florida law gives wide leeway to police officers in such cases. Rundles said her prosecution team will discuss the option of retrying the officer on the felony counts.