Two robbery suspects and 21 law enforcement officers exchanged nearly 200 bullets in this month’s deadly shootout at a busy Florida intersection, an official with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement said.
Those are preliminary figures from the early stages of the investigation into the December 5 shootout that left four people dead, FDLE Special Agent Troy Walker said Wednesday. His comments came during a roundtable discussion with the Miami-Dade County Community Relations Board’s Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Committee.
The investigation, Walker said, will not be over any time soon.
“We are not going to cut any corners whatsoever,” he told community members. “So whatever time it takes for us to do that, that’s what we’re going to do, because we owe it to you all.”
The incident began when two suspects robbed a jewelry store in Coral Gables and hijacked a UPS truck, taking the driver hostage, according to officials. They led police on a lengthy chase that ended in the shooting at a busy intersection in Miramar, where bystanders’ cars became shields for police as they exchanged gunfire with the suspects.
The gunbattle lasted less than one minute.
It’s unclear who opened fire first. Four people were killed in the chaos, including the suspects; the UPS driver, Frank Ordonez; and a bystander, Richard Steven Cutshaw. Autopsies have been performed on all four, Walker said. Some preliminary details were provided to the victims’ families.
Walker asked the community for patience, telling residents that investigators had collected thousands of hours of footage from body cameras, news outlets and red light cameras. They’ve also compiled hours and hours of police radio transmissions.
“We have our work cut out for us,” Walker said. “I can’t stress it enough: be patient with us through this process.”
The findings of the FDLE’s investigations will be provided to the law enforcement agencies involved to assist with their own internal affairs investigations, Walker said.
Officers from at least four agencies were involved in the shootout, he said, including Florida Highway Patrol, Miami-Dade Police, Pembroke Pines Police and Miramar Police.
In the weeks since the shooting, police have faced questions about how they responded to the incident and the tactics they used.
Joe Merino, Ordonez’s stepfather, told NBC’s “Today” show earlier this month that his stepson’s death was “unnecessary,” saying, in part, “other tactics should have been applied, and they weren’t.”
At Wednesday’s roundtable discussion, Miami-Dade Police Director Juan Perez said officers are trained to deescalate all situations, but sometimes it’s just not possible.
“In order to negotiate with somebody,” Perez said, “they can’t be shooting at you.”