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NORTH MIAMI (CBSMiami) — One of the most familiar law enforcement faces in South Florida is suing his department alleging retaliation for whistle blowing.
Neal Cuevas was Assistant Chief of the North Miami Police department and on-camera spokesman for the department for decades. He had the most tenure of any officer on the force. But in March 2018, Cuevas was demoted down to road patrol Sergeant. He was the department’s second highest-ranking officer.
Cuevas claims it’s more fallout from the July 2016 shooting of an unarmed caregiver, Charles Kinsey, shot as he lay on the pavement with his hands in the air while trying to help a man with autism.
It was believed the man with autism was holding a gun but it was only a toy truck and Kinsey was simply trying to coax him back inside the group home in which he walked out of.
Cops surrounded them and despite the fact that Kinsey repeatedly yelled the man was only holding a toy, Officer Jonathan Aledda fired three shots, hitting Kinsey in the leg. He said later he was trying to hit the autistic man because he thought he was armed.
Aledda was charged with attempted manslaughter and negligence. Former Chief Gary Eugene was fired, and Former Commander Emile Hollant was suspended, then fired for allegedly lying about his part in the shooting.
Hollant said he didn’t see the shooting, that he was getting his binoculars from his car. Department investigators didn’t believe him but he was eventually cleared though by the FDLE and the state attorney’s office.
Hollant has his own federal lawsuit against the city.
Cuevas believes the city demoted him from Assistant Chief to cop in retaliation, after he refused to support the administration’s take on how the Kinsey shooting came down. Cuevas filed a whistleblower memo in June 2017 about concerns over the department’s investigation into Hollant, saying he couldn’t endorse the department’s findings that Hollant had lied to investigators.
Rather than retire, Cuevas, a forty-year veteran will fight his demotion and is suing the City of North Miami, City Manager Larry Spring and Police Chief Larry Juriga for his removal as Assistant Police Chief.
His suit seeks four million dollars in damages. The city attorney said he doesn’t comment on pending litigation.
The criminal case against Aledda remains open in Miami-Dade court, and Kinsey has his own civil case pending against the city in federal court.