Interview with Florida Attorney, Matthew Dietz, for the Arnaldo Rios Soto Shooting

Interview with Florida Attorney, Matthew Dietz, for the Arnaldo Rios Soto Shooting

Yes, It Goes Deeper Than Training, Police Shooting Arnaldo Rios Soto | Interview with Matthew Dietz, Attorney for the Family of Arnaldo Rios Soto

I watched the police shoot another black man, while aiming at an autistic man of color. You’ve probably seen it on Google. I watched it as a Black disabled activist that has reported on police brutality cases since the late 80’s. I watched them shoot Charles Kinsey as he tried to calm down Arnaldo Eliud Rios Soto (photo, right), as he held a small toy truck in his hands. The neighbors assumed the toy truck was a gun and called the police. The police came; shot the black social worker on the scene, and said they meant to hit the autistic man with the toy.

From my experiences as an activist, I knew that the cycle would begin. The media, the police unions, and the legal representative would all operate as a well-oiled machine functioning to keep the police protected. They would first blame it on the victim. “Soto was a potential threat to the community”, they would say. He had a disability and the toy truck could have been a gun.  Next, the lawyers and often the community and loved ones would come out in the media asking for more police training to prevent future incidences like this. Next, the district attorney, who in this case as well as in many others, has a questionable relationship with law enforcement, would likely dismiss the charges against the officers.

We haven’t traveled all the way from A-Z yet, but it is likely that the district attorney will side with the officers that shot Kinsey. I looked more deeply into this particular case of Jeremy Hutton who has downs syndrome. He took his mother’s car, deputies chased him where he ran a red light then deputies shot him three times. Thank god he survived. Deputies said Jeremy was coming towards them and they thought they were in danger. However street cameras showed that Jeremy was driving away from the deputies and state attorney at that time dropped the charges against the deputies until the traffic camera revealed a different story. Investigating journalism found out that since 2010 the State Attorney has charge not one police officer in officer-involved shootings in Florida .

According to the Florida Partners in Crisis, the North Miami police department (where the accused officers are employed) had received the Crisis Intervention Training already. And following the shooting, the Miami Herald, on July 21st 2016 in an article titled “Shooting” sparks call from autism advocates for more police training:

In Miami-Dade, interactions between police officers and mentally ill and developmentally disabled people are frequent. The issue has not gone ignored — training for cops in dealing with both populations has been lauded thanks to the “Crisis Intervention Team” program pushed by Miami-Dade County Judge Steve Leifman.

The program became a greater priority for police departments in the mid-2000s after a string of high-profile shooting deaths involving mentally ill people.  In the past decade, more than 4,700 officers have undergone the crisis intervention training, which includes a class designed to help cops understand the challenges of dealing with autistic people.

“We’ve made great progress,” Leifman said.

In 2010 there was a Deputy shooting in Palm Beach County FL. of a disabled man that lead to questioning the relationship between State Attorney and police in police shootings.

With all of this in mind I got in touch with Matthew Dietz, Attorney for the Arnaldo Rios Soto, for an interview (Below).  I’m also looking to get in touch with a Black men’s activist group in North Miami called The Circle of Brotherhood.  Kinsey is an active member of this group.

1) Leroy Moore:  How is Mr. Soto now and how did this incident changed him, his services & his family?

Matthew Dietz, Attorney for the Arnaldo Rios Soto,:  Mr. Arnaldo Rios.  Mr. Rios is currently in a psychiatric unit at Aventura Hospital in Miami.  We are trying to find him a placement at a group home that will provide him the intensive behavioral treatment that he needs, especially after this incident.  His family may have to move to a location by the facility, since there are no facilities in Miami that have services that meet Mr. Rios' needs.  

 2)  Leroy Moore: For more than 15 years I've been following cases of police brutality involving people with disabilities and it is the same one answer avenue and that is the call for more police training.  Is the issue of training central to this case and if so, how? What are other avenues cause it seems in this case it is bigger than just training.

Matthew Dietz: This case is more than about training.  Even though it was obvious that Mr. Rios was a person with a disability and that they were told that he was a person with a disability, this fact was ignored because of a lack of training.  However, after it was known that Mr. Arnaldo was a person with a disability, the police representative had the audacity to say that they did not intend to shoot the health care worker, but instead intended to shoot the autistic man.  To me, this demonstrates deliberate animus against persons with disabilities.  

3)  Leroy Moore: How do you think this case relates to other cases of brutality in general and in terms of police misconduct policy?

Matthew Dietz: This case is different to most of my police misconduct cases.  In this matter, the psychological distress to Mr. Rios is profound.  Even though he was not shot personally, he is fearful whenever he sees anyone in a uniform, and is afraid that they will shoot whoever he is with.  Also, he was deemed by the police to be worthless, someone who could be shot or targeted.  There was no concern at all that what they were doing in targeting Mr. Rios was wrong.  There is no doubt that they knew that shooting Mr. Kinsey was wrong, but because of the irrelevance of Mr. Rios, they believed that it was acceptable to shoot him.  

4) Leroy Moore:  Does Florida have an anti profiling law like CA justn passed and has include disability to the legislation? 

Matthew Dietz: No.  California is much more progressive than Florida.  In Florida, the only persons with disabilities are protected by the hate crimes law are those who are incompetent and have a developmental or intellectual disability.  Further Florida also has a new law where folks can pay a dollar to get a "D" on their drivers license or identification card, and that an Autistic victim or perpetrator of a crime can have the assistance of their own psychologist, counselor or special ed teacher at their own expense.  

5)  Leroy Moore: As a lawyer what can be done legally in FL?

Matthew Dietz: The same thing that can be done anywhere else in the country, a lawsuit based on violations of Mr. Rios' civil rights under the equal protection clause and under the ADA.

6) Leroy Moore: If you know, what are the community demands?

Matthew Dietz: The community demands adequate training for the police and safe and secure community based housing for Autistic persons and persons with intellectual or developmental disabilities. 

7) Leroy Moore: From the website of Florida CIT Coalition  it says it was Organized in 2004, the Florida CIT (Crisis Intervention Team) Coalition is comprised of representatives of communities across Florida that are currently providing CIT training based on the Memphis Model. The group supports statewide implementation of CIT training for law enforcement officers.   So, that in mind, I know Soto's parents are pushing for more training. What are the differences?

Matthew Dietz: The CIT program in Florida is great.  However, it is not a requirement of all officers to be CIT certified.  Upon the conception that this was a potential suicide (which it was not) a CIT certified officer should have been called on the scene, but I am not sure whether any officers in the City or North Miami are CIT certified.  However, at the least, there should have been regular training on the needs and issues of persons with disabilities, and the officers should be required to do community policing and visit group homes, schools and meet persons with disabilities who live in the community.  

8)  Leroy Moore: As you know FL. has a history of discriminating against youth & adults with disabilities from having disabled youth in nursing homes. How does this history connect with what happened to Soto?

Matthew Dietz: Its all about the money!  Its always about the money.  Medically fragile children were forced into nursing homes because Florida would not provide adequate services for these children to remain in the community.  There are no facilities in Miami-Dade County for Mr. Rios to obtain intensive behavioral services.  Thank God that the institutions were closed, but now they need to travel elsewhere in the state to try to get adequate services.  The only other option is to use chemical restraints to ensure that some people will be able to remain in facilities without the required behavioral services. No matter how you try to cut it, it is still failure to ensure full community integration 

9)  Leroy Moore: We understand that the Sheehan case is coming to trial in San Francisco in the upcoming months, and the question is still unresolved as to whether "the officers were required under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act to accommodate Sheehan's mental disability." Does that play into this case?

Matthew Dietz: No.  This is more of a denial of basic equal protection and basic fourth amendment rights to be secure in ones own person.  

10) Leroy Moore:  if there is any way that we can provide support from the community to the family and case from California.

Matthew Dietz: Teach North Miami the difference between a toy truck and a gun.  

11) Leroy Moore: As a lawyer what do you think needs to be done on a federal and local level in this heightened moment of police brutality, knowing that over 50% plus are people with disabilities?

Matthew Dietz: 50 million plus!  At a local level, there needs to be more interaction between the police and the community.  At Disability Independence Group, we developed a Wallet Card program in conjunction with the UM/NSU CARD and the Coral Gables Police.  The program teaches persons with autism, a developmental disability or an intellectual disability how to disclose their disability to law enforcement.  In addition, we have an aspect of the program that teaches police how to identify and interact with a person with autism, intellectual or developmental disability.   

10)  Leroy Moore: How can the public support the family in this case?

Matthew Dietz: Demand that your community's police have adequate training.  Demand that Olmstead is fully implemented to ensure community based placement and treatment.

11) Leroy Moore: Any last words?

Matthew Dietz: Never any last words, and always available for more questions!

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Photo: Young Latino man, Arnaldo Rios Soto in a gray t-shirt sitting on a beed holdidng in his two hands a brown-tan stuf Animal close to his chest .  He is smiling.  Photo permisssion by Matthew Dietz 

Leroy F. Moore Jr.

NBDC Member and Founder of Krip-Hop Nation