This time, the stolen Miami cop car didn’t crash in the PortMiami tunnel, wasn’t taken on a joyride by a hospital patient, and didn’t race through Northeast Miami-Dade with its driver shooting at unsuspecting passengers.
This time, a Miami cop car was stolen by a woman who jumped off the roof of a home, corralled a police cruiser, then smashed head-on into another police car, before the driver took off and lost a foot race with officers, and was taken into custody.
“When she jumped into the cop vehicle, he [the police officer] tried to drag her out, but she booked it,” said Chris, a U.S. Postal worker who watched the wild scene unfold Friday afternoon. “She came out staggering a little bit, then kept running.”
The brief but chaotic scene played out on Northwest 28th Avenue, just north of bustling Seventh Street on the edge of Little Havana. None of the three people involved — two Miami police officers and the woman alleged to have stolen the vehicle — were badly injured.
The cop cars were both totaled, their front bumpers hanging off and front hoods smashed. The smaller two-door police car came to rest on the sidewalk in front of the fence at a home on the street. The four-door cruiser stalled in the middle of the road.
Miami Police Detective Frederica Burden said one officer was taken to Jackson Memorial Hospital for observation with a few cuts and bruises. The woman was taken there, too, and is expected to be alright. No charges have been filed yet, and the woman’s and police officer’s names have not been released.
“He [the Miami cop] was fighting from the passenger side of the police vehicle to not let her get it into drive,” said Burden. “But she floors it, south.”
Strangely, Friday’s chase and collision was the fourth time since April that a city of Miami police vehicle has been stolen. In each case the car was stolen after an officer left keys in the ignition.
The first instance was in April when rookie officer Rosny Obas was filling out an incident report at a taxicab company on Northwest 79th Street. That’s when Frantzy Armand jumped into the patrol car. The two got into a shootout before Armand took off north, then east, randomly shooting at unsuspecting motorists before he lost a gun battle to a North Miami cop in the Sans Souci neighborhood.
A week later another Miami rookie cop was filling out a report at Jackson Memorial Hospital when patient Larry Nystrom took the vehicle for a joyride. He got as far as Florida’s Turnpike, before turning around returning the car to the hospital.
Then in early May, Russell Keith Anthony McGruder stole a cop car on Biscayne Boulevard before being chased and crashing it inside the PortMiami tunnel. That incident proved especially embarrassing — the vehicle and its driver were on special detail protecting one of President Barack Obama’s cabinet members.
Miami doesn’t have a policy that directly addresses leaving keys in the ignition of patrol cars.
“Police work is dynamic. Sometimes people make mistakes when they rush out of the car to address an issue. It’s dumb but forgivable on active incidents,” said Miami Police Chief Rodolfo Llanes. “If an officer leaves a car running but unlocked to get a Big Mac, it’s different than getting out to address someone running in and out of traffic.”
Burden said police first received a call before noon that a woman was running in and out of cars on busy Northwest Seventh Street. When the officer arrived, she said, the woman began running north on 28th Avenue.
First, she ran past the Superial Insurance Agency and the Fritanga Cana Brava Restaurant. Then she raced past the homes that line the residential street to the north. All the while the officer followed her slowly in his patrol car, Burden said. The running stopped when she reached a pink home about five homes north of Seventh Street.
Somehow she managed to climb a railing onto its barrel-tiled roof. The officer then got out of his car to try and get her down. As the officer went around the side of home, the woman jumped from the roof and scrambled into the police vehicle. Chris, the postal employee and Burden, said the officer got in the passenger side and fought for control of the steering wheel. As the car headed south on 28th Avenue, another officer was heading to the scene.
Unaware of what was going on, he slowed down, Burden said. But he didn’t slow down enough, and the woman driving the stolen police vehicle accelerated and smashed head-on into the approaching patrol car.
“I asked him [the officer] if he was okay,” said Chris. “He was wobbly. He said ‘yes,’ then kept running after her.”
Burden said she was caught after a brief foot chase and taken to the hospital. No charges had been filed against her by late Friday afternoon.