SOUTHWEST MIAMI-DADE (CBS4) – Brian Howell is haunted by a night that held a neighborhood hostage, put police officers lives at risk and ended up in the deaths of two men, a father and son, who he lived with.
“I thought I was going to be killed too. I wake up in cold sweats. I am shaking right now just talking about it,” Howell, 29, told CBS4 Chief Investigator Michele Gillen in an exclusive one on one interview.
He spoke out for the first time since an inferno left a neighborhood in fear and his two roommates dead February 19 at the home on the 15400 block of SW 57th Street. He says he thinks of them constantly and can’t stop dreaming about them.
“For a split second I wake up and I feel like they are still alive,” he shared, wiping away a tear.
Other than police, Howell is the only man left alive to tell his side of what started as a Miami-Dade Police operation that he said left him terrified and with lots of questions.
He claims that night he was asleep on a couch and the next thing he remembered was being at his open front door facing men who were strangers.
“They didn’t seem like they were police,” he said. “They pulled me out and they had their guns.”
From his point of view, then chaos erupted.
“They still didn’t say they were police. It just didn’t seem real.” Howell recalled. “Everything at the house was getting shot. The doors, the windows.”
Skirting gunfire, he made it into a neighbors house and hid
“I hid in the laundry room . There was a little shelf up there,” he recalled. “That’s when they pulled me down and punched me in the face. They kept smashing my head into the wall. They kept telling me I was the shooter, that I was the shooter. That I was going to get mine. But I had not shot anything.”
Police reportedly found eight marijuana plants in the house. Howell told Gillen that he knew that.
“I knew they were there. I knew of their existence.” he admitted.
Howell was arrested that night and charged with one count of possession of a place to manufacture a controlled substance.
But since the arrest, his attorney says the state has not formally filed the charges and today, once again, requested the court for more time and another continuance..
“Absolutely shocking,” said attorney Alex Michael, who is representing Howell pro bono. “Nearly unheard of.”
While the state is allowed 180 days to file the charges, Michael said that rarely happens.
“There is something not right going on,” Michael said. “Once the state files charges, they have to open their files.”
Meanwhile Howell waits, not knowing what tomorrow will bring.
“I try not to think of tomorrow,” said Howell. “I try to live in the moment now and be thankful that I am still alive and still here.”
CBS 4 News reached out to the Miami-Dade Police Department and requested a response the questions that were being raised and for a status report on any internal investigation that might be looking into the incident.
The news team also requested status updates from the Fire Department and the Medical Examiner’s Office to see if there is a determination of how the fire was started and how the two men died.