MIAMI (CBS4) – Four Miami-Dade police officers went to serve a murder warrant on a Miami man Thursday morning, but what could have been a routine task turned violent and deadly, leaving two officers and the suspect dead.
Officer Roger Castillo, a 21 year veteran, died at the man’s home after the suspect opened fire on the officers, who had come as part of a multi-agency task force to serve a City of Miami murder warrant. Officer Amanda Haworth, with 23 years on the force, died hours later at the hospital, after she was hit by gunfire. Suspect Johnny Simms, a young man with a long rap sheet, died at his home, killed by 30 year veteran officer Oscar Placensia, who opened fire when the suspect started shooting.
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The violence destroyed two families and left South Florida’s law enforcement community aching with the loss of two fellow officers.
“Our worst nightmare was visited upon us again today,” said James Loftus, Miami-Dade Police Director, as he worked visibly to hold back emotion.
“They were murdered, and they were murdered by someone who had murdered someone else, and they were seeking that person out to take them into custody. Someone who was a career criminal.”
Simms, who was just 23 years old, already had a rap sheet that was 5 pages long. Loftus referred to him as a documented career criminal.
The team of officers, all of whom had special training and long experience in serving warrants, came to the house in the area of 69th Street and NW 6th Court in Miami around 11 a.m. to serve the murder warrant on Sims
A witness in the neighborhood told CBS4’s Gary Nelson that they heard a single shot, and then a volley of shots. When the shooting stopped, Officer Castillo and the Sims were dead. Officer Hayworth was mortally wounded, and was rushed to Jackson Memorial Hospital. Two hours after the shooting, police confirmed her wound had simply been too severe.
“It is my sad news to report that she has since expired in the operating room, ” Det. Rosanna Cordero-Stutz told reporters gathered outside Jackson Memorial Hospital, shortly after 1 p.m.
Miami-Dade director Loftus said he would make no effort to hide his anger at the deaths.
“Two angels from our police department were murdered today, and I’m angry about it,” Loftus said. “We have families who have been devastated. We have 4 children who have lost their parents…because they were doing their jobs, that simply.”
“Today, our community lost two more heroes. Our hearts ache for their families and their loved ones who are dealing with incomprehensible grief, loss and shock. These two officers were loving family members, friends and our neighbors. They wanted to serve their community and make it a better, safer place for all of us,” said John Rivera, President of the Dade County Police Benevolent Association.
Loftus said there were several people in the house where the shooting took place, including a number of people who police were interviewing as witnesses. Video from the scene showed children’s toys on the patio, just inches from where officer officer Castillo fell.
More than 100 police officers from numerous departments, including the US Marshal’s office which managed the task force, rushed to the shooting scene. Two schools in the area were briefly locked down, and I-95 was closed briefly as officers tried to figure out exactly what had happened.
But Marshals service spokesman Barry Golden confirmed officers were looking for no additional suspects, convinced Sims was the only person involved.
The bodies of Castillo and Sims remained at the house for hours while police investigated. By late afternoon, Castillo’s body was removed, as a cordon of silent officers watched the body go past.
“We’re torn apart by this,” Loftus said.”It makes me sick, physically, physically sick, nauseated, to try to sit there and talk to an officer’s father who has been murdered.”
Barry Golden, spokesperson for the US Marshals Service, said the officers were serving a Miami-Dade warrant as part of the task force.
“They had more than two officers here,” said Golden. “I can’t give you numbers but they had plenty of officers here for safety. It’s very unfortunate.”
“Detectives that responded to this… are full time members of the U.S. Marshals Florida Regional Fugitive Task Force. We work in conjunction (with Miami-Dade Police Department).”
Two schools in the area of the incident were placed on lockdown shortly after the shooting. Students at Jesse McCrarry/Little River Elementary School and Thena Crowder Elementary School were restricted to their classrooms. Those lockdowns were lifted shortly after 12 p.m.
The area where the officers were serving the warrant is known for a high level of violent crime.
“This is a very volatile area,” Golden said. “There are a lot of shootings in this area. Now you realize how dangerous this job can be. Tracking down fugitives, subjects who know they’re wanted, who are always armed. There are a lot of shootings and guns in this area and so you see how dangerous it is. Not only innocent people getting hurt but law enforcement officers who are equipped and prepared for that.”