FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – The Broward Sheriff’s Office said Tuesday it has found “powerful and compelling evidence” to name a prime suspect in the shooting death of Broward Sheriff’s Sergeant Chris Reyka in August 2007.
According to Broward Sheriff Scott Israel, over the last 18 months evidence points to Shawn Labeet, who was killed in a police shootout in September 2007, being involved in Sgt. Reyka’s murder.
Labeet was killed after he shot and killed Officer Jose Somohano.
“Cop killer Shawn LaBeet is now considered the focus of this homicide investigation,” Sheriff Scott Israel said.
Lead Detective John Curcio said investigators want to know why LaBeet — following a traffic stop by Miami-Dade Police — put on a bullet proof vest, grabbed an assault rifle and started shooting at Miami Dade officers one month after Reyka’s murder.
“There is an underlying reason in my opinion as to why that occurred,” Curcio said. “And we are committed to finding out if the underlying reason is the murder of Chris Reyka.”
Detectives say they’ve received tips about LaBeets’ possible involvement in the case and they say he has strong ties to Pompano Beach and Broward County. Plus witnesses say they saw LaBeet in the area of the Walgreen’s where Reyka was murdered on the night of the shooting.
“We have two independent witnesses who don’t know each other basically who said they saw (LaBeet) in the area one at a business and the other saw him at an apartment complex,” Curcio said.
Sgt. Reyka, 51, was shot five times on August 10th, 2007 in a Walgreen’s parking lot in Pompano Beach as he checked a license plate on a suspicious car. Reyka entered a license tag into his computer system before he left his cruiser.
One of the tags entered came back to a stolen white Ford which was captured on surveillance tape leaving the scene. Neither the gun used to kill Reyka, nor the killer’s getaway car has ever been found.
Curcio said he feels investigators are close to solving the case due to “the course of the last year and a half with (LaBeet) being a focus.”
Investigators wouldn’t reveal many specifics of LaBeet’s potential involvement in Reyka’s homicide and they say they want to learn more from LaBeet’s friends and associates about his past, his use of firearms and whether he drove a white car similar to the one seen driving away from the Walgreen’s in Pompano after Reyka’s murder. Curcio said many of the 32-hundred tips that came in regarding Reyka’s case dealt with LaBeet and some were from anonymous sources.
“The whole purpose of today is to get those anonymous people to come forward and speak to me directly,” Curcio said.
Curcio said investigators have uncovered a clue in the case at an Oakland Park car wash but they would not reveal what it is.
“There was a piece of critical evidence that was found at that car wash and that’s obviously a key factor of the investigation
tying someone into that car wash,” Curcio said.
However, a source with knowledge of the Reyka case tells CBS 4 News that soon after Reyka’s murder when investigators were looking into LaBeet they found a hat with a hair in it and bullets — the same caliber as those used in Reyka’s killing — at the car wash. But the source said the significance of the items is not known.
Over the past 6 years, investigators have followed thousands of leads. One lead that got a lot of attention focused on a crew of armed robbers who terrorized Walgreens and CVS stores around the same time as Reyka’s murder. Sheriff Israel said investigators do not believe those men were involved.
“The fact that the detectives were able to show that detectives were able to show the armed robbers from the Walgreens did not commit this homicide is not a bad thing,” Israel said.
Curcio and Sheriff Israel say it is important for them, for BSO and for Reyka’s family to finally determine who killed Chris Reyka.
“I said it in my swearing in ceremony — justice will be served,” Sheriff Israel said. “We will solve this case.”
Curcio said everyone realizes how hard these past 6 years have been on Reyka’s family.
“I say we work for the victim’s family,” Curcio told CBS 4′s Carey Codd. “Every time i come to work the victim’s family is all around me because it’s the Sheriff’s Office. So it is important.”
There is a new tip line for information on the Reyka homicide — 954 880 3950. BSO detectives want to hear from you if you have some of that critical information about Shawn LaBeet that detectives are seeking. There is still a reward of more than $278,000 in the case.