As snowbirds and shoppers watched in horror, Broward Sheriff’s deputies opened fire on a suspected bank robber who claimed to have a bomb strapped under his shirt.
The 49-year-old suspect, who investigators did not identify, survived the midday shooting as he emerged from a Chase Bank branch. He was taken to Broward Health Medical Center, where he underwent surgery.
The strange incident started shortly before noon Friday when a man, clad in a baggy gray sweater and an orange cap, brazenly walked into the bank at 300 E. Dania Beach Blvd.
He demanded cash from a teller and announced he had a bomb. The man grabbed cash, which witnesses said he stuffed into a clear bag, and walked out.
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But, by the time he made it outside, deputies, including SWAT and the bomb squad, had surrounded the bank, located in the busy Meadowbrook Square West shopping plaza across from Dania Jai-Alai.
When the suspect spotted deputies, he tried to run. They ordered the man to the ground, said Jerry Gee, of Dania Beach. The suspect initially obeyed orders to stay down, then tried to reach inside the plastic bag.
“Once he reached into the bag, they started shooting,” Gee told Miami Herald news partner, the South Florida Sun Sentinel. “The guy wasn't listening, not following commands.”
Deputies shot the man, 49, because he stopped obeying their commands while in possession of the possible bomb, BSO spokeswoman Keyla Concepción said.
As the chaotic scene unfolded, grocery shoppers came in and out of a Winn-Dixie in the plaza. Some shot cell phone footage of the suspect lying face down on the ground.
Louis Botta, who lives in an apartment directly west of the bank, said he watched deputies lead bank employees out a rear door. He said deputies yelled commands at someone on the east side of the bank and heard them say to “drop the weapon.”
“There were people scrambling all over the place,” Botta said.
Then he heard a barrage of shots.
After a long delay, Botta said he heard three small explosions, possibly the sound of the bomb squad conducting what Concepción called “a remote procedure to open the device and render it safe.”
According to Concepción, paramedics were on scene but couldn’t immediately treat the suspect because of the device he had beneath his shirt. Deputies eventually wheeled the suspect out of the plaza on a gurney, but only after two members of the bomb squad removed the device.
“While he was on the ground he opened his shirt. He allowed us to X-ray the device,” Sheriff Scott Israel told WPLG. “At that particular point our bomb squad sergeant made the decision it was safe for our bomb squad to go and cut the device from the subject.”
Concepción said the device has been handed over to the FBI’s South Florida Violent Crime Task Force.