SW MIAMI DADE (CBS4) – A man who was cooperating with police in an effort to smash a violent home-invasion ring was shot and killed by the officers he was helping Thursday night, as a confrontation between police and the alleged robbers left 4 people dead. Police say the man helping them ignored instructions that should have kept him safe.
The shooting happened Thursday night at SW 216th Street and SW 189th Avenue, as a special robbery detail waited with SWAT team members for the team of suspected home invasion burglars to arrive at a home which had been set up as a home invasion sting.
Of the men expected to arrive with the home invasion ring, one was what police called “a cooperating defendant”, identified by family members as Rosendo Betancourt, who had helped police get information about and access to the home invasion ring. Police said the man had a “previous business relationship” with the men in the robbery ring, and was cooperating with them and with the US Attorney’s office.
When the men left the car, police said, they were armed and wearing ski masks. They approached a house, planning to rob it, when police identified themselves and tried to arrest them. The men scattered in different directions, and as police tried to stop them, all four who approached the home were killed, including Betancourt, who has not yet been officially identified by police.
One person survived, said to be the driver for the team, and police said he was being questioned,
Miami-Dade police director James Loftus confirmed that they had the help of one of the men killed, but said he was not supposed to be in harms way.
“He was told not to participate in this action at all, not to relinquish control of the vehicle, and not to leave the vehicle,” said Loftus, who claimed officers knew the man, had the man’s description, and knew what he was supposed to be wearing.
“For reasons unknown to me and unknown to us at this point, he participated in the robbery proper, wearing the mask, wearing gloves, wearing a jacket over the clothing he had initially been wearing earlier in the day,” Loftus said.
Family members claimed Betancourt had been provided a ski mask by police to use in the sting operation. Director Loftus denied that.
“We did not provide him with a mask. We did not provide him with the gloves he was wearing. We did not provide him with the firearm found next to his body or the flex-cuffs that were there,” said Loftus.
“Why would someone put themselves in harms way when they’ve been given very specific instructions about not participating, and we know that was very clear to him?”
Loftus said there is speculation the cooperating defendant may have been “coerced” into taking part, but there was no specific evidence to support that. He said officers have a lot of audio and video that will be reviewed as they try to determine what happened.
Even though a police informant was killed, Loftus believes the department did the right thing in going after the alleged home invaders. He painted the picture of a ruthless gang of predators who used anything, including torture, to get what they wanted.
He said the leader of the group, who was killed Thursday night, had been arrested by police 14 years ago in a similar home-invasion sting.
“This group was prone to, when they broke into homes, duct-taping their victim and even torturing their victims,” Loftus said, “Slashing their genitals, it happened in a couple of cases, and torturing them until they disclosed the location of their property.”
“This is one criminal enterprise that has been interdicted and dealt with.”
None of the men involved in the robbery have been identified by police, nor have the officers involved in the shooting.