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MIAMI (CBSMiami) — Following an officer-involved shooting that left a behavior technician hospitalized, the mother of the mentally-handicapped man at the center of the incident said police should have recognized signs of autism.
Cellphone video captured the shooting as autistic 26-year-old Arnaldo Rios sat in the middle of a North Miami neighborhood street, rocking back and forth, with a toy truck in his hands.
Laying on the ground with his hands in the air was Rios’ mental health caregiver, Charles Kinsey. Kinsey was attempting to bring Rios back to the facility where he lives after the young man wandered off.
That’s when someone called police, mistaking Rios’ toy for a gun. When officers arrived on the scene, they were under the assumption that Rios meant to harm Kinsey, according to officials.
One officer, now identified as Jonathan Aledda, opened fire, striking Kinsey in the leg. However, according to police, Rios was the intended target and Aledda simply missed and hit Kinsey.
Since the shooting, Gladys Soto, Rios’ mother, said her son is now traumatized by an event that his feeble mind cannot comprehend, repeating “blood” and “shooting” over and over. Rios, who is essentially non-verbal but loves music and can say some words, has lived at the Miami Achievement Center for the Developmentally Disabled for three years, being placed in several group homes during that time.
Soto said Mr. Kinsey was one of Arnaldo’s favorite people and looked up to him as a father figure. She said police handcuffed Rios and held him in a squad car for three to four hours.
The next day, Rios went back to the area of the shooting, where blood still stained the street, and began crying out and pounding the pavement. That led to authorities taking Rios to the psyche unit at Aventura Hospital.
While Charles Kinsey was released from the hospital a few days after the shooting, Rios still remains in one.
“If this police department had adequate training, this would not have happened,” said attorney Matthew Dietz, who represents the family. “There is no question.”
The signs can oftentimes be very similar among the autistic community.
“When they see a person with autism rocking on the ground, sitting cross-legged with a truck, rocking back and forth, they should have known that we may have a person with autism here,” said Soto.
The event, they say, has left Rios shaken up.
“His injuries are long-lasting injuries because he does not have a process to deal with them,” said Dietz. “He cannot talk, he’s non verbal, he says a few words. He needs therapy, he needs help.”
It’s the type of assistance even those closest to him struggle to provide.
“He’s still traumatized, hes having night terrors,” said his sister Miriam Rios. “He’s not sleeping, he’s not eating. He’s not the same anymore.”