The former police chief who was fired after his officer shot an unarmed caretaker for an autistic man last year is suing for wrongful termination.
Gary Eugene was North Miami, Florida’s chief of police on July 18, 2016, when officer Jonathan Aledda responded to a 911 call of a disturbed man holding a gun to his own head. Aledda fired three shots at the man, Arnaldo Rios, but struck Charles Kinsey instead. Kinsey, who was wounded, was the behavioral therapist for Rios, who is autistic and was holding a toy truck, not a gun.
Aledda is awaiting trial after being charged with a felony and misdemeanor for shooting Kinsey, who was lying on the ground with his hands in the air and imploring officers not to fire when he was shot.
In 2016, the Miami-Dade state attorney’s office launched an internal affairs investigation into the shooting. Eugene took a temporary medical leave of absence in 2017, and an officer who was at the scene of the shooting was fired against Eugene’s wishes while he was gone.
When Eugene returned the next day, City Manager Larry Spring fired him, accusing him and Commander Emile Hollant of giving contradictory statements to internal investigators.
However, the lawsuit alleges that behind closed doors Spring never raised any concerns with Eugene about the investigation and instead told Eugene the city had “decided to part ways, had a lot of respect for you, you have been very professional, and very competent, but we are moving in a new direction.”
The lawsuit also alleges that the internal investigation concluded Hollant did not lie about having witnessed the shooting and recommended he receive no disciplinary action.
Now Eugene is suing City Manager Larry Spring, Vice Mayor Scott Galvin, and the city of North Miami in federal court, hoping to get his job back and resurrect his reputation. The federal lawsuit, filed last week, alleges that Eugene was not given due process when he was fired.
Eugene’s attorney, Brian Pollack, characterized the former chief as a scapegoat and whistleblower who had previously criticized the North Miami Police Department for being disorganized and plagued by infighting.
“We’re looking into a couple theories as to whether Chief Eugene was retaliated against for complaining about this and blowing the whistle on not following the rules or whether this was racially motivated,” Pollock said of his client, who is African American.
Eugene has requested a trial by jury.