Witnesses Recall Frightening SoBe Police Involved Shooting
South Florida Crime
MIAMI BEACH (CBS4) – Three police officers and four bystanders remain hospitalized just one day after two separate police-involved shootings in Miami Beach. One person was also killed in the shooting which was caught on camera.
A YouTube video posted early Monday and obtained by CBS4 News shows the first shooting scene from several stories above.
Jameela Simmons said she saw it from the beginning and that it started when police stopped the car at 18th and Collins.
She says someone in the car started shooting at officers and bystanders.
CBS4’s Natalia Zea asked Simmons, “You saw the guy inside the car shooting?” She responded, “Yes I saw him shooting at the police officer, that’s probably why he pulled off because he had a gun,”
Zea asked what police were doing while the man was shooting. Simmons said, “They were shooting back of course, they had to open fire they were shooting back.”
Three officers were hurt in the melee, and four bystanders were shot. At least one witness says a police officer shot her sister…not the suspect.
4 women visiting from England saw police open fire on the car when it finally came to a stop.
“With all that gunfire there was no way anyone who was in that car was going to survive, absolutely no way, said Soraya Lopez.
“It was so busy, people were falling on top of each other, it was like instant reaction. People were screaming and panicking,” said Fiona Harris.
This was the group’s fourth year visiting South Beach for Memorial Day Weekend. And this traumatic incident has changed their plans for next year.
Harris added, “Next year we’re gonna try Vegas.”
Police said the incident took place around 4:00 a.m. on Collins Avenue between 13th and 16th Streets. Police said there was a tense situation between some officers and a man driving a car when the man tried to hit officers with that moving car.
The home video opens with the sound of four loud gunshots and a dark-colored vehicle zooming down the street before stopping at an intersection.
The man shooting the video tells a companion, “Stay right there, don’t come to the window,” as sirens and screams are heard from below. The man tries to explain to his female friend what was going on and he said “He was shooting people from inside the car.”
About one minute into the video, at least a half dozen people, apparently police officers, approach the stopped car and a barrage of bullets rings out. One officer can be seen approaching the car shining a flashlight into the driver’s side window as the man on the video continues to say “Oh my Gosh.”
The man inside that car was killed. He has not been identified.
“If you’re driving a vehicle and you aim that at someone and drive towards that person with the intent of causing injury, that’s deadly force,” said Miami Beach Police Chief Carlos Noriega. When asked whether a weapon was found on the suspect, he replied, “I have not been informed of a weapon recovered yet,” said Chief Noriega.
Two Miami Beach officers and one Hialeah officer were taken to Mount Sinai Medical Center with unknown injuries. Those officers have not been identified.
Four innocent bystanders were injured by gun fire. Miami Beach police say it’s unclear whether the gunfire that injured the innocent bystanders came from police or the suspect in the vehicle.
CBS4 News has confirmed that at least two of the injured were transported to Jackson Memorial Hospital. One person is a young woman whose boyfriend said was shot at least twice, once in the arm and also in the leg. He did not want to identify himself or the woman but he said one bullet passed through her and the other lodged in her elbow.
CBS4′s Peter D’Oench also caught up with the cousin of another man who was wounded by the stray bullets. As she walked into the Ryder Trauma Center at Jackson Memorial Hospital, she told D’Oench, “He is going to be ok. He was shot in the left side. I was very worried about him. I heard about this early this morning. I was very worried.”
She did not want to identify herself or her cousin, but she also told D’Oench, “I have a lot of questions about this. Who shot him? Was he shot by the police or the bad guy. And if police shot him, why did this have to happen? For what reason, I don’t know. I also want to know how many of those innocent bystanders got shot? He was just running. That’s all I heard. He was just running and they shot him.”
Angie Vasquez told also told D’Oench that her sister, Sarah Garcia, 24, was one of the innocent bystanders who was wounded. It happened right in front of her.
“Yes, it was very scary; I was scared for my life. My sister was shot in the arm, it came through her bones and fractured them. She was also shot in the leg, but her legs are going to be OK,” said Vasquez. “It was just crazy. We are here visiting from Naples all these shots rang out. It didn’t make any sense to me.”
Vasquez said that while she was not able to look inside the suspect’s car, she did not think he had a gun.
“He was never shooting back. It’s crazy, police are supposed to protect us, but instead we get shot,” said Vasquez.
As of Tuesday afternoon, police haven’t said whether they have found a gun on the suspect.
Other witnesses also talked about their frightening experience.
One witness from New York said, “The Miami Beach Police Department shot her. That was not right. There was a drive by going on. And the Miami Police shot her. It was by accident but they shot her.”
Another New York tourist described what happened.
“We were just walking going to our hotel. We seen a drive by going by. We ducked down. The police came out with their guns. They were like this and they started shooting.”
Witness Jose Vazquez said it was chaos.
“We were about to turn the corner when all the sudden we heard gun shots. Maybe about 5 to 12 gunshots. In the chaos we heard a girl got hit,” explained Vazquez. “Everyone was running. I was kind of scared. It was sporadic. Then you had more gunshots. It was kind of frightening. All the sudden the police started running with their guns drawn.”
About an hour and 15 minutes after the first shooting incident, there was another police-involved shooting at 14th Street and Washington Avenue.
“The driver of the car came directly at several officers, a couple of corrections officers, and the officer that fired a weapon. It looks like she may have been directly in front of the vehicle when he was coming at her,” said Chief Noriega.
The bullets missed the driver and that’s when he crashed into the police cruiser and was arrested.
There were no injuries involved in this intense situation.
Police were working two additional crime scenes related to the shootings: one at 15th and Drexel Avenue, and another at 14th and Collins Avenue.
Police shut down several blocks in the heart of South Beach to motorists and pedestrians. South Beach has been packed with thousands of tourists in town for the 12th annual Urban Beach weekend.
Chief Noriega stated it was relatively uneventful until Monday morning. “It was quiet last night until 3:56 a.m. It’s just a darn shame this had to happen,” said Noriega.
Overall it was a very busy weekend for law enforcement on Miami Beach this weekend.
According to Miami Beach Police, during the 2011 Memorial Day weekend in South Beach there were 431 total arrests, 66 felonies and 365 misdemeanors. Notably, there were 1,298 citations and 3,221 calls for service.
In 2010, there were 382 total arrest, 71 felonies and 311 misdemeanors. The department said that there were also 1,327 citations and 3,198 calls for service.