As she slept Tuesday night, a real-life nightmare unfolded in an 11-year-old girl’s home.
Two men, heavily armed, broke into her family’s Model City home, demanded cash and then shot Maurice Renard Harris, 36, several times as he tried to protect his family.
The killers, with bandanas covering their faces, then fled.
“These men are beasts,” Miami police spokeswoman Kenia Reyes said Wednesday. “A little girl was asleep when she was surprised by the gunfire. The father was just trying to protect her.”
Watching the whole thing: Harris’ wife of six years, Shakila Stewart.
“He meant everything to me,” Stewart said. “He was my provider.”
During an emotional news conference at police headquarters Wednesday afternoon, Stewart pleaded with anyone who might have information about her husband’s slaying to come forward.
“It would mean the world to me and it would give [our] kids closure,” she said.
The couple also have a 15-year-old son who was not home at the time of the invasion.
Her husband had no enemies, Stewart said. “Everybody loved him.”
Neighbors said the family had moved into the home about six months ago.
Miami Police Sgt. Confesor Gonzalez said the intruders targeted the home, but didn’t know the residents.
Harris had been out earlier and might have been followed home, police suggested.
According to police, the armed men entered the home at 4315 NW 16th Ave. just before midnight and demanded cash. When Harris said he didn’t have any money, the men grabbed an unidentified item and headed toward a bedroom where the 11-year-old girl was sleeping.
That’s when Harris, trying to defend his family, wrestled one of the men to the floor and was shot several times, police said. The armed men ran out the door and vanished.
Miami Fire-Rescue took Harris to Jackson Memorial Hospital’s Ryder Trauma Unit. He died minutes later.
“To say this is a senseless death would be a huge understatement,” Gonzalez said. “The sanctity of their home was violated.”
Police said they are looking at other recent home break-ins to see if there is a pattern.
“These guys may have done this before and may do it again,” Gonzalez said.
A man who identified himself as Harris’ landlord but said he didn’t want to be named called the family “excellent tenants.”
“It’s a sad, sad situation,” he said, adding that his family has owned property in the neighborhood for 49 years. “[The incident] is very strange for this strip [of houses] right here.”
Neighbors say Harris had a medical condition which prevented him from working.
According to a Miami Herald records search, Harris had been arrested several times, charged with selling cocaine, drug possession, loitering, resisting arrest and battery. He was convicted on the drug and loitering charges.
Protecting his family from harm was in her husband’s nature, Stewart said. “He was a devoted father; he loved me and his kids.”
A family member said the 11-year-old girl talked of the “demons” who came into the home and how much she missed her father, but knows how much he loved her.
“We never get used to seeing a daughter lose her father,” Gonzalez said.