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Suspects, police detective identified in grow-house shootout

Miami-Dade police officers and federal agents knocking at the front door of a possible marijuana grow house off Coral Way Tuesday night found themselves in the middle of a gun battle with a suspect who opened fire from a nearby parked car — striking one officer three times in the abdomen.

Several officer and agents — who neighbors said seemed to be working undercover and out of uniform — returned the gunfire, killing one man just outside the home.

The dead suspect was identified Monday as Gerardo Delgado, 56, of Miami. The other suspect is Luis Lazaro Estevanell, of Southwest Miami-Dade. He was charged with second-degree felony murder, marijuana trafficking and possession of cocaine.

A bulletproof vest may have helped save the life of the narcotics unit detective, who was flown by helicopter just after 7 p.m. to Jackson Memorial Hospital Ryder Trauma Center, where a cadre of fellow officers, relatives and friends quickly gathered.

Late Tuesday, the officer was said to be in stable condition after undergoing surgery. Miami-Dade police spokesman Detective Roy Rutland said that, after the surgery, the officer was recovering and had his family by his side.

He was identified Monday as John Saavedra, 34, a 10-year veteran.

Miami-Dade police said they went to the home along with the FBI to check out a narcotics tip.

Meanwhile, officers and K-9 units swarmed the scene of the shooting at Coral Way and Southwest 60th Avenue. The body of the dead man remained outside the house, and as night fell police set up a command post as they searched for possible companions of his. An armored SWAT truck, portable floodlights and an FBI response team also arrived.

The shooting took place as nightfall approached, a time when many nearby residents had just returned home from work. Many said they had the TV on when they heard the gunfire. Some mistook it for firecrackers.

Miami-Dade police and FBI agents arrived at the home about 7 p.m., police spokesman Detective Javier Baez said. They went up to the front door of the home, which had a small yard with a Royal Poinciana tree and a circular driveway.

About the same time, Baez said, a man in a car parked near the house started shooting at the officers.

The officers returned fire, killing the man in the car. A second man, who was inside the house, was also taken into custody.

One neighbor, who did not give her name, said she was at home with her dogs when she heard the gunfire. She went outside and saw two people on the ground bleeding. Police told her to leave her home immediately. Others who lived on the block were kept away from their homes well into the night.

Another neighbor said he was watching the Olympics shirtless and in shorts when an officer knocked on his door and said he had to get out now. He had to borrow a shirt from a neighbor.

Luis Fajardo, 52, said he was coming home when he saw at least 30 police cars filling up the otherwise typical West Miami-Dade neighborhood of single-family homes, trees and a park.

“You never think that this would happen in your neighborhood,” said Mike Gonzalez, 53, who lives about a block away from where the shootings took place.

Afterward, police combed through the neighborhood and appeared to approach the house as if a person might have been barricaded inside. Baez said police did not have a third person but were taking every precaution to make sure there wasn’t another suspect.

Neighbors watched in astonishment at the massive police presence on their block. Those who spoke to The Herald said they had no idea a marijuana grow house was in their midst.

“I’ve never seen this before,” said Carlos Rios, 45, who lives on the block. “This is a family-type neighborhood. We’re all in shock at all this.”

Miami Herald Staff Writer Diana Moskovitz contributed to this report.