At the corner where 14th Avenue meets 125th Street in North Miami, you’ll find the remains of a large gas station. The buildings now house a Haitian church, an internet radio station, a few empty offices, and a convenience store.
If you visit the Google street view of this corner, you’ll see it’s a composite image, like all Google Street Views. Some of the angles were taken in 2017, some in 2014. But whichever view you look at it from, you’ll see Thomas Matthews in the picture, sitting out front of the convenience store.
Thomas Matthews: I guarantee if you sit here — everybody pass by the guy — “Thomas what’s up?”
Thomas has been here for the last 27 years, he’s the property manager.
Audrey Quinn: Can I sit here with you just for a minute?
TM: Yeah sure. You know, this the way I sit. I sit just like this some time. But I don’t sit here all day dear. I walk around.
He takes me inside.
AQ: Can you show me where — where you would see Arnaldo and Charles?
TM: Oh, they’d be right here.
Arnaldo Rios Soto and Charles Kinsey were from the group home down the street, MACtown. Arnaldo lived there, Charles worked at it. Thomas says for years he’d seen customers from the home. Arnaldo and Charles had become regulars.
Thomas says Charles explained to him that Arnaldo was autistic — says he could have guessed that by the way Arnaldo was always twisting a toy truck around in his hands. Says he found Arnaldo sweet.
TM: They were very polite so — there was no problem.
No problems, until July 18th, 2016.
AQ: Um can you show me where — where you were when the cops pulled up?
You maybe saw this cellphone video a couple summers ago. Or at least heard about it on the news.
An unarmed caregiver at a North Miami group home was shot by a cop while trying to help an autistic man who had wandered off to play in the middle of the street with a toy truck.
In the video you see a middle-aged black man, Charles, laying in a suburban intersection, hands up, next to a younger, Latino man, Arnaldo. Arnaldo’s just sitting with a toy truck.
A cell phone camera captured it all.
The police officers crouch behind telephone poles, guns out. Charles is yelling at Arnaldo to get on the ground, please get on the ground. Arnaldo’s words are hard to make out. After 71 seconds of this, the cellphone video cuts.
When it starts again Charles is lying motionless in the street, shot, two police officers hovering over him like they’re trying to figure out what to do. Another cop’s got Arnaldo on his stomach. He’s in handcuffs.
I’m Audrey Quinn. This is Aftereffect, a new podcast from WNYC Studios. The video from July 18th, 2016 was one of a terrible stream of videos that marked that summer. Another unarmed person of color shot by police. Just 12 days before this, cops had shot and killed Philando Castile on a Facebook livestream. The day before that, Alton Sterling was shot out front of a store, again on camera.
But this video tells another story too — about how Arnaldo Rios Soto, the then 26-year-old autistic man, who I’ve spent the last eight months getting to know.
Arnaldo Rios Soto: LOOK! Shhhh. Shhh. Look!! LOOK!
AQ: I see I see.
ARS: Optimus Prime truck.
Arnaldo is pretty incredible. And he’s been through a lot. His family left Puerto Rico when he was young, has moved around the US trying to find a better life for him — and them.
Over the next eight episodes we’re going to follow him, and try to understand how an autistic man and his caregiver end up in SWAT team crosshairs. And what happened next, after the cameras and reporters moved on.
The story took me deep into a world of institutions, psych wards and group homes...a world inhabited by hundreds of thousands of developmentally disabled adults in this country...and it says a lot about what they can and cannot do — who decides that. And about how those decisions are enforced — with restraints, with drugs, and with three bullets shot that day from a SWAT team member’s gun.
Just as this shooting epitomized the worst fears of black families across the country, this particular shooting also epitomized the worst fears of autistic people and their families. Autistic adults who feel invisible. Who feel powerless. Who feel, in a lot of ways, threatened for their very survival.
Just a quick language note here at the top, dozens of autistic people I’ve talked to for this podcast have asked me to say “autistic people” not “people with autism.” They see autism as a central part of who they are, not some affliction they want to be separated from. So, “autistic people” it is.
I met Charles Kinsey, the man who was shot, at the Miami law offices of Rasco Klock, they’ve taken on his case. He tells me this story starts about a month before the shooting. When he and Arnaldo Rios Soto first met.
Charles Kinsey: I was going to be the one that was going to be working close to him.
Charles worked for MACtown, it’s a Miami chain of group homes for developmentally disabled people. They hired him right out of the interview, as a behavioral therapist.
CK: I loved the job, I enjoyed it. Matter of fact, I was working at two group homes at the same time.
A behavioral therapist is essentially a paid companion, for the most disabled people. Usually not a lot of training, a high school diploma. Pay near minimum wage. And depending on their clients’ needs, behavioral therapists can work one-on-one, or with a whole crew of clients.
Another language note: in this industry the preferred word is “client” not “patient,” developmentally disabled people aren’t sick, it’s also a reminder that their needs should be the focus here.
Charles was making just $10 an hour. But MACtown let him work a lot of hours, up to 7 days a week. And he took to it. The work felt good.
CK: Just, you know, knowing that someone was dependent on me. That, whatever their need was, I was there.
The group homes where Charles worked had six men each in them, that’s typical for what’s considered community housing for developmentally disabled adults. The residents went to occupational training classes midday, then it was Charles’ job to be there when they came home in the afternoon, find activities they wanted to do.
CK: We'd go to the park, we'd go take them walking. I wanted to do a whole lot of stuff there but I didn't get a chance to get to it.
AQ: Do you remember when you first heard that Arnaldo was going to be coming?
CK: Um, yes. I remember that. They did tell us that he was like, I guess um, what they say, a level one? They have different levels.
The Florida state disability agency divides up people by behavioral needs. When people have more problems, their caretakers can charge Medicaid more money. Arnaldo had recently gotten this highest need designation.
CK: Um, level 1 is where you have to pay more attention to that client.
The Florida agency manages services for people like Arnaldo. It gave MACtown a thick file that said Arnaldo was autistic, intellectually disabled. That in the past few months, he’d bounced through four different group homes, three psych wards. He’d been violent, toward himself and others. That Arnaldo needed someone with him at all times.
And that someone was going to be Charles. So MACtown sent him to meet Arnaldo, at his last hospital.
CK: I didn't know what to expect, but I just like, I just, I know when I first met him I just prayed. I just said, 'Lord, give me the strength to um, deal with what you got in front of me right now today.' That's it. And I took off from there. 'Hey Arnaldo, how you doin? My name is Charles.’ He looked at me, and I looked in him, I said, 'Alright, um, we fixin to get ready to go to a new facility?' I said, 'First of all, you want something to eat?’ So we went to McDonald's. We got us something to eat. Everything went well. Once we got to his room, we made sure his toys was there. And you know his toy trucks. The one that he had that day. His lamp and his radio. He loved his radios.
Charles says the Arnaldo he read about in the state’s file, that was not the guy he got to know.
CK: I mean Arnaldo was cool, I really liked Arnaldo. He start calling me “Chaaarleess.” I'd be like 'What's up Arnaldo.' Um, but he did have his outburstses.
AQ: Like physical stuff?
CK: Yea, he done got aggressive, and I had to let him know. 'Arnaldo, c'mon, we not having that here. We're not doing that here.' You know but then he'd calm down and he'd be like “Ohkayy” You really had to know what he liked. And once you found out what he liked, Arnaldo was fine.
Things Arnaldo really likes — toy trucks. He always has one with him, it’s a comfort thing. Listening to the radio — loves Spanish ballads. And nineties cartoons — he cuts out pictures of his favorite characters, laminates them with tape, takes them everywhere.
Charles and Arnaldo actually had only about a month together. But Charles spent every shift at Arnaldo’s group home, alongside Arnaldo. They clocked a lot of hours.
CK: I think his mom told me that he like computers. When I found that out, I was like, 'Oh my God.' And he's good! Man, you can underestimate Arnaldo if you want to, but Arnaldo got on that computer, and he taught me some things. For real!
Arnaldo really knows his way around YouTube.
CK: I mean, it was more like cartoon things. He'd take me straight to the pound puppies and I know when I came in that situation Arnaldo was fine, and everybody like, you know what, we need to keep Charles with this guy. And I mean, they was trying to get it to that point, but it, you know, unfortunate things events happened.
July 18th 2016 was hot, Charles remembers. 91 degrees. The five other guys in the group home, they’d gone off to the Adult Day Training center. Arnaldo had wanted to stay home that afternoon.
CK: I mean, it was just me and Arnaldo, just me and him. And then I ordered the pizza, I paid for it myself, I said, 'I'll pay for it myself.' You know I said, 'Ok, we going to eat, we going to relax, we gon have a good time and then me and you,’ and it was calm and cool and everything was just fine.
And then, Arnaldo started seeming not so fine.
CK: Like I said, outburstses. You know, and it happens? You know, he started walking up and down the um, the house and he went and opened the door, I said, 'What's up? You want to go for a walk?' Then he went, "NO" and I said, 'Ok then, close the door.' Then he came back to the room and this time he came running. He shot right out the door. I said, 'Oh here we go again.' I mean. I can't stop him from going out the door, but I have to be there with him. So as he went out the door, I'm coming, I'm walking right behind him.
Arnaldo and Charles walked around the neighborhood most days. The group home was on a suburban block of North Miami, full of pastel-colored ranch homes and small parched-looking palm trees.
This is Arnaldo’s neighborhood. Charles doesn’t stop him from going out — a disability isn’t a reason to confine someone to their group home. But it’s also Charles’ job to make sure Arnaldo’s safe.
CK: So I'm walking out, when I walked out the door, the next door neighbor actually said, “You going to get him?” I said, 'I got him. Don't worry about it. He'll be fine.’ And I got my eye on him. So he get down to the corner. So he's hiding behind the pole, just to look and see if I'm going to go come. I'm like 'Yea, I'm coming, I'm coming to get you.' So when I get, about, probably a couple of feet within Arnaldo, that's when I see this here car come. And a lady...Arnaldo, Arnaldo actually jumped in front of the car with the um, with the truck.
The toy truck. When you move around a lot like Arnaldo had, sometimes your stuff can feel more like home than your house does.
So, of course he had a truck with him that day. A shiny silver tanker with the logo for the Puerto Rican phone company Cellulares Telefonica. He’d loved it so hard the front cab and wheels had fallen off, it was basically a long, thin, shiny silver barrel.
CK: Yea he had a truck with him the whole time. So I told her, I said, 'Don't worry about it, I got it. Just go.' So she came around and you know, I guess she went about her business.
None of this was unusual. Totally routine for Charles. But it was a little hot to be running around outside.
CK: When I get close up to him, I said, 'Arnaldo, c'mon man. Let's stop, no more, no more.’ So he would like, one thing that he loved to do, he liked to flop. What I mean by flop, he'd flop and just sit right down. Right on the ground. He won't budge. So he did that to me. And I said, 'Uh-oh, here we go.'
Arnaldo just sat down in the road. Not quite in the middle of the three-way intersection, but almost.
CK: So what I did is I caught myself shielding him, so I'm standing over top of Arnaldo so nothing would happen to him. And I ain't want him to, I actually I didn't want him to get up and run no more either at that point. I'm standing over here, this car here. So I'm trying to tell them, ‘Y'all got to go here — I got him. He gonna be fine.’
And then, one of the passing drivers made a phone call. 911.
Dispatch: Police and fire. What’s the address of your emergency?
Woman: Ayy, we got a uh emergency, I think it’s 14th Ave and 127 NE.
We’re not gonna use this woman’s name, because people on the internet blame her for what happened next…But what matters is that just before 5pm, she was driving south on 14th Avenue in North Miami…She’d just left her house, on the way to “Cross Fitness”... When she got to this intersection. And she had a very specific interpretation of what Arnaldo and Charles were doing.
Woman: There’s this, guy in the middle of road, and he has what appear to be a gun.
Dispatch: What is he doing with the gun?
Woman: He has it to his head! And there’s a guy there trying to talk him out of it.
She tells the dispatcher the guy with the gun looks Spanish, a black guy is with him.
Woman: I think the guy’s mentally sick.
Woman: I don’t know if it’s a gun, but he had something that is shaped like a gun. So just, be careful. And he’s sitting in the middle of the road.
She wavers a little bit in her description. I don’t know if it’s a gun. But there’s no going back after this 911 call.
CK: And this is when I hear, I heard the sirens going in.
The sirens were the North Miami police department, and Charles is suing over what happened next — doesn’t want to talk about it. But Thomas Matthews from the convenience store was also there, so were his neighbors. They saw what really happened. That’s next, when Aftereffect continues.
TM: All right — I don’t feel like walking — at first — see where that black car park? The blue car? She was right there on the corner.
Thomas Matthews’ convenience store is a block away from the intersection where Arnaldo flopped. He heard the sirens, and went over to investigate...saw Charles and Arnaldo in the middle of the road, saw a policewoman walking up. He told her her right away, “Hey, I know them.” He wanted to explain that they come into his store, that they were from the group home down the street. But she cut him off.
TM: She told me — “I told you get your ass back before you get shot.” I walked back this way.
But he kept watching. Saw what happened. Tells me over and over again he thinks he could have prevented it. If only that cop would have listened to him. If only he could have explained to her about the group home.
I notice a three-story apartment building at the corner...all twelve apartments face the intersection where Arnaldo and Charles had been.
AQ: Do you know some people in those apartments who saw it?
TM: Right on the street? They probably would talk with you. You can knock on the door but you be careful cause she got a house full of dogs.
AQ: Which one?
TM: Third door on the second floor — that’s her door.
I knock, have no idea how to respond when a woman yells over the barking.
She peeks out, suggests I hurry up and get inside before her dogs get out.
AQ: Thanks for letting me in.
Maria Minerva: You want a cigarette or something?
AQ: What's that?
MM: Cigarette? You want water?
AQ: Nah I’m good.
MM: You want water?
AQ: Nah I’m good, I’m good thank you.
Maria Minerva is 56, has maroon hair and a purple spaghetti strap tank top that shows a dreamcatcher tattoo on her left shoulder. I meet her four rescue dogs. Dogs in need have a way of finding me, she explains. The smallest one, Skylar, was hit by a car yesterday, he’s recuperating in a makeshift nest she’s made in the living room by pushing her couches together. He’s got one of those plastic cones around his neck. She smokes a cigarette over the kitchen sink.
AQ: So tell me about that day last summer? Were you looking out the window?
MM: No, I was in the house but I heard the commotion and when we looked out...I’ll show you with my hand how everything happened...I stayed here.
AQ: And you could hear that from here?
MM: Yeah, I’m standing here. And then the next thing I know, my son was out there. He saw everything.
AQ: How old’s your son?
MM: He’s 22. His name is Sivano.
Sivano Hernandez was actually the one who made the cellphone video that day. A couple hours later he joins us in Maria’s apartment. He comes in holding a can of Coke and a lit cigarette.
Sivano Hernandez: Me? [dog barks] Hey hey don’t bite me, I’m trying to be nice. Stop, stop.
MM: Sivano, he’s scared of you and you know it.
SH: Damn, why he gets like that?
MM: Because he thinks you hate him. Don’t even — his hips are broken.
One of Sivano’s arms has a full sleeve tattoo of bones and chains. He’s got a wispy goatee that his face is still growing in to.
Sivano was staying at his mom’s place on July 18th, 2016.
SH: It was just a regular day, you know? And then it just, had a sudden turn of events. I went and played basketball came back — my baby mother uncle came over here. And that’s when we went outside, we went, got some sodas from the store. Got two cigarettes. And we were smoking on the balcony, and that’s when everything happened to occur.
Sivano’s spot on the balcony was about 60 feet from Arnaldo and Charles at the intersection.
SH: When I seen the kid run and he’s screaming all this crazy stuff and then I see Mr. Kinsey — he’s chasing after the kid and he’s he’s basically just trying to — trying to get his attention and trying to get him to calm down. But obviously you could tell that the kid wasn’t right, you know? He wasn’t all the way there. So — he was screaming. And then he — it — there was a point where he sat down on the floor. And Mr. Kinsey was right there and he was just — he was he was basically attending to him you know the whole time.
AQ: Just in the middle of the intersection?
SH: Yeah. He actually said — “The police are coming, the police are coming!”
Gary Eugene was North Miami’s chief of police at the time. He didn’t get there ‘til later, but he had to help make the report of what happened. He says the first officer to arrive took cover behind a cement pole.
Gary Eugene: The first officer to arrive at the scene, the first one took cover behind a cement pole.
A second officer also took cover behind a pole, at the other corner that faced Charles and Arnaldo.
Charles has hit the ground, on his back in a sort of sit-up position, up just enough to watch what’s happening. Hands in the air. Arnaldo’s still just sitting where he flopped. The two officers are about 20 feet from them. Two other officers are soon at their backs, behind a car...about 150 feet away. The police take note of the scene over the radio transmission.
Police Radio: Black male, green shirt, hands up. White Hispanic male, gray shirt, jeans. Sitting down looking up.
GE: Their officers initially thought Kinsey was the victim of Mr. Soto, who had the gun.
AQ: Oh, so they thought his hands up were up in response to Arnaldo. Not in response to the cops?
SH: when I seen the police arrive and they shut down 3 — the 3 ways to get into this block and they all had rifles. And they were pointed at Mr. Kinsey and the kid.
This was just a few minutes after the initial 911 call. Just a few more minutes after Arnaldo had gone for what had seemed like a routine walk in his neighborhood.
SH: And I’m like — at that point I was like, ‘oh my god — something’s about to happen.’
AQ: Yeah what made you think like I better get my phone out?
SH: Pssh. What would you do in my situation? I mean nowadays you know everything’s technology — you know, I figured damn — let me get this on camera . You know, cause nobody’s gonna believe me if I ain’t got no proof, you know? So — at that point I started recording.
GE: So everything the officers did were to the T. They responded, they took cover, everything was up to what they are supposed to do.
At least up to that point, Chief Eugene says.The police dispatch is still telling officers the same, very specific story.
Dispatch: There’s a male with a gun to his head in the middle of the roadway. White Latin male wearing a gray and black shirt and gray pants.
In the video Sivano took, all of this is going on, and Arnaldo’s is just sitting cross legged at the intersection, looking back and forth between Charles and the officers behind the poles.The whole time he fidgets with the truck in his hands. Charles Kinsey stays on his back, hands up.
SH: The police are just pointing their rifles at him. They’re not really doing nothing at this point. They’re not trying to communicate with them. They’re just telling them to lay down.
CK:Roll on my stomach?
CK: Lay down on your stomach! Arnaldo, lay down on your stomach!
Charles is trying to figure out what the cops want from him. ‘Roll on my stomach?’
It’s not clear exactly what Arnaldo knows about what’s happening here. There’s people yelling, including Charles, very aggressively. All around him is a lot of stress.
Words are not Arnaldo’s thing, he doesn’t just come up with them the way other people do. But Arnaldo’s a bit of a film buff. He’s learned to remix his favorite lines to get a point across. So he reaches for a clump of words he’s seen used to make someone quiet in a scary situation. This is Woody in Toy Story, when he and Buzz Lightyear are lost, Buzz is freaking out, and Woody wants Buzz to just cool it.
Toy Story: Shut up. Just shut up you idiot!
Arnaldo tries the line on Charles. ‘Shut up you idiot.’
ARS: Shut up you idiot.
But Charles won’t be quiet.
CK: Arnaldo. Please be still, Arnaldo!
More police join the scene. They see these two men of color on the ground, both yelling, one seemingly refusing to lie down or put his hands up, still holding a shiny barrel-shaped thing.
Police Officer: Be advised he has something in his hands.
SH: Honestly — I’m not surprised with the way it went down because when they when they showed up like that — I already knew. I already knew something was gonna happen.
SH: Because that — they they were treating it with with with force, you get me? They were using some force. The man is unarmed, the kid got a toy. And they could see it visibly. You know what I’m saying?
AQ: Could you see it was a toy?
SH: Well from my — my view I didn’t I wasn’t close up like the officers over there. And over there by the poles, you get me?
MM: He was sitting over there you can see. And the little kid was —
AQ: He’s a man.
MM: He’s a man, you know, but with special needs, was sitting down with the toy in his hand.
AQ: Could you see in the way he was holding it?
MM: Yeah, he was sitting down, going like this.
AQ: So you’re like looking down at your chest and playing with it kind of in front of you?
MM: Yeah...he kept saying, that I could tell you, he kept saying, “Don’t shoot, don’t shoot.”
AQ: The assistant?
SH: The whole time he was he was telling them — that the has a toy truck in his hand. “It’s a toy truck in his hand.”
CK: All he has is a toy truck in his hands. A toy truck.
Charles says, “I am the behavior tech at the group home. That’s all this is.”
CK: I am the behavior tech at the group home. That’s all this is.
“That’s all it is, there’s no need for guns.” Arnaldo’s now throwing out panicked movie lines.
CK: That’s all it is, there’s no need for guns.
ARS: [guttural sound]
CK: Get on the ground!
ARS: [guttural sound]
In Sivano’s cellphone video, Arnaldo then looks up, sees the officer behind the telephone pole with his gun cocked up against his face, and he mimics him. He holds the tanker truck in the same position.
GE: There at one point, the commander was on the scene. Got onto the air, to advise that it appeared that uh, “the individual, the subject, appears to be loading his gun.”
The commander’s words were, “It looks like he’s loading up his gun.”
GE: What I can tell you from a distance, that toy did look like a gun.
SH: Well — in the beginning from a distance, it was shiny and it looked like something. But after a few minutes into it, when you could see his behavior and the way he was acting, you could tell that he wasn’t all the way there. And then he started putting it in his mouth and there’s no way — at that point I could tell it wasn’t no gun because you could tell the form.
This next police radio transmission is the hardest to make out. It’s from officer Jonathan Aledda. He’s a SWAT team member crouching behind a car. About 150 feet behind Charles and Arnaldo. “I have a clear shot of the subject,” he says, then something indecipherable.
Jonathan Aledda: I have a clear shot of the subject…
The dispatcher asks him to repeat. Another officer chimes in, “He advised he has a clear shot.” But there’s disagreement.
Sergeant: I have a visual. Does not appear to be a firearm.
“I have a visual, does not appear to be a firearm.” Another officer confirms — Not a gun. The dispatcher gives the code to acknowledge, but it doesn’t matter.
SWAT officer Jonathan Aledda fired three times from behind the car. Fourteen seconds after his fellow officer confirmed it was not a gun.
Police Officer: We have one down. Have him hold fire. We have one down
Police Officer: North Miami, uh, 211, he — be advised it’s a toy gun.
Dispatch: Is anyone injured?
Charles is now laying on his back screaming, Arnaldo jumps to his feet. It’s just seven minutes after dispatch had called the officers to the scene.
The officers first report no injuries. It seems all three bullets hit the street. But one richoted into Charles’ right thigh. Charles, who’d just come to that intersection to make sure Arnaldo was safe, who did everything right, now has a bullet in him.
The head of the police union later explained this was an unfortunate error, the officer had meant to shoot Arnaldo. Remember, this was the same month as Philando Castile and Alton Sterling. The same year as Gregory Gunn and Akiel Denkins. But this isn’t one of those, the department signalled. He didn’t mean to shoot the black guy. He meant to shoot the autistic guy.
Dispatch: North Miami 211, verify rescue.
CK: My God.
Dispatch: Fire rescue is already en route.
CK: Oh, my god.
Man: North Miami, rescue? NE 127th and 14th.
After the shooting the officers approached Charles and Arnaldo. They flipped Charles over and handcuffed him.
SH: That’s — that’s when he was already shot. They still cuffed him. [dog barking] Right there we already knew the police did a big mistake. They started telling everybody get in their house.
Charles asked the police why the handcuffs, they said, “protocol.” They kept him there handcuffed on the ground, bleeding with a bullet in him, for at least ten minutes, until the EMT came and made them take the handcuffs off. Charles remembered being afraid he was gonna to pass out.
The officers handcuffed Arnaldo too, pressed the front of his body against the street. They frisked and searched him, and locked him in the backseat of a squad car.
One of the main ways Arnaldo calms himself down is doing what some autistic people call stimming. Waving his hands, twirling an object...Repetitive, meditative movements...For two hours Arnaldo sat handcuffed in the back of the police car, unable do these movements...A witness said they heard screams.
Detective Michael Gaudio came to take the lead on the scene...By this time the head of Arnaldo’s group home had gotten there...Told the police about Arnaldo’s disabilities, asked if he could see him...But Gaudio had told another officer to take Arnaldo back to the station.
Police Officer: Naldo sit down, slide back.
Michael Gaudio: He’s okay.
This is a video of Arnaldo’s interrogation. It’s taken by a security camera from the upper corner of a grey closet-sized room at the North Miami police station. Two officers enter with a handcuffed Arnaldo. It’s a little over two hours after the shooting.
MG: Okay Arnaldo, my name’s Detective Gaudio. I’m with the police dept. Do you know who the police are?
MG: Yes sir.
ARS: Yes sir.
The camera show’s Arnaldo’s face, and the back of Detective Gaudio’s head. They’re seated at a small white table. The other cop stays out of view.
MG: Do you know what happened tonight, today at all?
MG: What happened? You were feeling kind of bad?
We can’t know what Arnaldo was thinking here, but he seems to take a reasonable strategy: when faced with authority, when in doubt, be as agreeable as possible.
MG: Do you remember what happened?
MG: Can you tell me?
MG: Go ahead, tell me.
It’s a strange scene. The cop seems unsure what he’s gonna get here.
MG: Okay. Do you know Charles?
MG: The guy who was there with you?
MG: How do you know him? Do you know?
ARS: Yeah. yeah. [whispers]
Detective Gaudio was told Arnaldo either had “mental problems” or was on drugs. Neither he nor the North Miami Police would respond for comment.
MG: Where were you going tonight?
MG: Do you know what you had in your hand?
MG: What did you have in your hand?
It is so hard to know what’s going on here.
When I interviewed Gary Eugene, the police chief with the Haitian accent, he said as much to me. He was fired after the shooting...he’s now suing for wrongful termination...and after the interview, he told me, “You know, what the city should have done right away is say we blew it.” “Did you think you blew it?” I ask him. He looks at me and nods. Then adds — “But this I cannot say.”
Emile Hollant, one of the commanders who was there that day, also lost his job. And SWAT officer Jonathan Aledda, who pulled the trigger, has been put on paid leave...he has a criminal trial set for mid-2018. It’ll be the first time a Miami-Dade County police officer has been tried for an on-duty shooting in almost thirty years.
MG: What did you have in your hand? Do you know?
I keep going back to this video from that night. To Arnaldo in a tiny room with two cops at the North Miami police station.
MG: Okay. okay. Was it shiny —
MG: Or was it black?
MG: Was it red?
MG: Or was it blue?
You have to ask yourself: Why is Arnaldo even here? How does a walk outside with a toy truck in your hand end in a place like this? At one point Detective Gaudio pauses, like he’s gonna stop. Compliments Arnaldo’s Ghostbusters shirt. And then continues.
MG: Did you want to hurt anybody tonight?
MG: Who did you want to hurt?
Finally, it ends.
MG: Do you want to go back home now?
ARS: Yeah, go home.
MG: Okay, Arnaldo, we’re gonna take you home.
But where exactly was home now? One more group home placement had not worked out. And it wasn’t going to be any easier to find another one.
July 18th 2016, was the day in Arnaldo’s life that made headlines. But within a day, he’ll be back in custody. And this time, he’s not getting out.
Next, on Aftereffect...I needed to find out more about what happened that next day. And the day after that. About the fight Arnaldo and his family have been fighting now for over twenty-seven years. And how everything changed because a passing driver misunderstood a little toy truck. Everything.
Aftereffect by Only Human is a podcast from WNYC Studios.
It’s produced and reported by me, Audrey Quinn, and edited by Ben Adair. Additional reporting from Aneri Pattani. Production help from Phoebe Wang.
Thanks goes to Sara Luterman of NOS Magazine and reporter Eric Garcia for pointing us to Arnaldo’s story.
Cayce Means is our technical director with engineering help from Matt Boynton and Jared Paul.
Hannis Brown is our composer.
Our team of talented reporter-producers includes Christopher Johnson, Mary Harris, Amanda Aronczyk, and Christopher Werth. With help from Margot Slade.
Michelle Harris is our fact checker. Our interns are Kaitlin Sullivan and Nicolle Galteland.
Jim Schachter is WNYC’s Vice President for News.
WNYC’s health coverage and Aftereffect is supported in part by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Jane and Gerald Katcher and the Katcher Family Foundation, Science Sandbox, an initiative of the Simons Foundation, and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.
Thanks also to the Rosalynn Carter Fellowship for Mental Health Journalism.