North Miami shooting: Man with autism suffers in aftermath, mom says

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Arnaldo Eliud Rios Soto still wears the blood-soaked jacket he had on the day his friend, caregiver and father figure was shot by police in North Miami, his mother said.

Last week Rios, 26, wandered away from his group home and Charles Kinsey, his behavioral therapist, came after him.

Police, responding to a 911 call about a suicidal man with a gun, came too.

Kinsey was shot in the leg, a mistake, police said, as the officer was aiming at Rios, who was holding a toy truck. The pair became the latest image in the national debate about police shooting of unarmed men.

Gladys Soto said she last saw her son, who has autism, when she delivered clothes to him at Aventura Hospital’s psychiatric ward, which is where he wound up after he left his group home to revisit the scene where Kinsey had been shot days earlier.

He still wore the jacket he was wearing when Kinsey was shot while lying on the ground with his hands up.

When she visited, Rios, who doesn’t verbalize many words, pointed to his sleeves and said, “Blood, blood,” Soto told CNN in Spanish.

Attorney Matthew Dietz, who represents the family, said that after the shooting police eventually brought Rios back to MACTown, a center for developmentally disabled people. But Rios left and went back to the site of the shooting.

He did so to “describe the hurt he feels and to sort of yell for help,” Dietz said.

Officer says he did what he had to do

The police officer who shot Kinsey has been identified as Jonathan Aledda, a four-year veteran and a member of the SWAT team. He has been placed on administrative leave.

Last week, the police union representing him said a cell phone video of the events before and after the shooting doesn’t tell the whole story. There is no video of the moment Kinsey was shot.

The officer had been aiming for Rios, not Kinsey, the union said. The officer thought Rios posed a danger, said John Rivera, president of the Dade County Police Benevolent Association.

Aledda has issued a statement in the form of a text message, which Rivera read to reporters.

“I took this job to save lives and help people,” the officer said. “I did what I had to do in a split second to accomplish that, and hate to hear others paint me as something I’m not.”

A life with autism

Rios was diagnosed with autism when he was about 8 years old, but his mother long had her suspicions. She first noticed differences in her boy when at 18 months he stopped looking directly at her. He wouldn’t eat and reacted to her touch as though she was beating him. She started studying autism.

Soto’s husband left her and the family when Arnaldo was 3, something that shook him profoundly. Soto said her son would often sit by the window waiting for his father to return, but he never did.

Rios’ diagnosis came when the family lived in Baltimore.

“By then, it was too late,” she said. “He had already lost too many years.”

Soto said life can be tough, as it is for many people.

“It hasn’t been easy. No mother with an autistic child has it easy. Because they’re so special that sometimes, you don’t know how to react,” she said. She couldn’t cry in front of her son, because then he would cry.

But her son can also take that pain and transform it. His gift, she said, is to take anguish and extinguish it.

She said he sometimes has outbursts. He first escaped a caretaker when he was 13 or 14 years old. That also was the first time he was sent to a group home.

There were other incidents at school and after a half dozen an official told her she had to do something or her child would be taken away.

She said she had him put in a group home against his wishes and her heart. She went to visit him every chance she could — weekends, on days off.

He grew to really like Kinsey, who reminded Rios of his stepfather.

He loves trucks

Rios also really likes toy trucks. He researches them. He sleeps with them, gives them names.

The white truck he had in his hand last week when Kinsey was shot is named “Cellular Phones.”

That truck and his other favorites are ones he clings to when he is stressed, his mother said.

Now people around the country are sending Rios toy trucks. Four more arrived Tuesday.

They are not his only obsessions. Rios also loves toy airplanes, stuffed animals, and is always with a toy genie bottle from the movie “Aladdin.”

For now, the family’s focus is getting him out of the hospital and into a group home.

“Arnaldo can’t live in a psychiatric ward of a hospital,” said Dietz. “That is the worst place (he) could live. … he can’t have his toy trucks there.”