The names of the two fallen but never forgotten FBI special agents were repeated over and over again on Friday as the federal agency honored their legendary heroism in a very big way.
The FBI dedicated its shiny regional headquarters at 2030 SW 145th Ave. in Miramar in the names of Benjamin P. Grogan and Jerry L. Dove, a tribute signed into law by President Barack Obama this week. The new South Florida field office — striking $194 million glass-wrapped twin towers standing on 20 acres — seemed overshadowed on a windy spring day by the memory of the agents’ courage in the line of duty.
Grogan and Dove died in a five-minute gun battle with two heavily armed bank robbers in the Suniland area, which is now part of Pinecrest. The shootout — which occurred 29 years ago Saturday — remains the bloodiest shootout in FBI history.
“This building is a memorial and an inspiration,” FBI Director James Comey told more than 1,000 speical agents, police officials and politicians who attended the dedication. “That day changed not only the FBI but all of law enforcement.
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“We continue to try to make good come from that tremendous loss,” Comey said. “And we will never, ever forget.”
The “Miami Shootout” was a defining moment in the FBI’s 107-year history. The two suspects had superior firepower, armed with a Ruger assault rifle, a shotgun and .357-caliber handguns. The resulting carnage prompted the bureau to make sure all agents were better armed, replacing .38-caliber revolvers with 9mm semi-automatic handguns.
“In a mere five minutes, 145 shots were fired,” said George Piro, special agent in charge of the regional field office, which was previously located in North Miami Beach.
The shootout “forever changed” the FBI, said Piro, who called the eight agents involved in the shootout “role models” because of their “courage, valor and bravery.”
Grogan, 53, a two-decade veteran nicknamed The Doctor, was one year shy of retirement when he died. Dove, 30, had joined the agency four years earlier after earning his law degree from West Virginia University.
That fateful day, FBI agents, who teamed with Miami-Dade police to investigate a rash of bank and armored car robberies, were staking out several South Dade banks. They expected one might be hit because it was Friday — payday.
Just after 9 o'clock that morning, agents Grogan and Dove were driving on South Dixie Highway in the Suniland area, when they spotted a stolen black Chevrolet Monte Carlo. Inside were the two suspected bank robbers, Michael Platt and William Matix.
Grogan and Dove didn't know how much firepower they had in the vehicle as they trailed it down the residential streets near the Suniland Shopping Plaza.
With other FBI agents backing them up, Grogan and Dove made the decision to do a “felony car stop” — a rehearsed maneuver to box in the suspects' vehicle.
Cars collided and the suspects' Monte Carlo ended up crashing into a tree. Then gunfire erupted at Southwest 82nd Avenue and 122nd Street.
“If it were not for Ben and Jerry, I would not be here today,” said retired FBI special agent Gilbert Orrantia, who was injured along with five other agents on April 11, 1986. “They took the brunt of the attack.”
On Friday, Orrantia was flanked by retired fellow special agents, John Hanlon and Edmundo Mireles, as he retold the horrific story. Orrantia remembered a “storm of bullets,” saying it was an agent’s “worst nightmare.”
But then, he finished on an uplifting note. With his “arm shattered” from a gunshot wound, Mireles “made the final charge” and killed the two suspects, Platt and Matix, as they attempted to escape in one of the FBI cars.
When Orrantia was done, the audience rose from their chairs and cheered.