In what police called a brazen act of vandalism targeting the law enforcement community, two marked police cars were set ablaze in Northeast Miami-Dade on Friday.
The pre-dawn attacks were not the first ones this year. In January and February two unmanned Miami-Dade police cars were sprayed with bullets. No one was hurt in any of the incidents but the deliberate targeting of police vehicles has raised concern at a time when tensions between law enforcement and the public have been flaring up across the country.
“It’s a continual attack on law enforcement. We live in dangerous times,” said Miami-Dade police union president John Rivera.
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Friday’s incidents, just a few blocks apart, happened in the Golfwood community in the California Club area. One car belonged to Miami-Dade police, the second to Hallandale Beach police, said Lt. John Jenkins of the Miami-Dade police department.
Hallandale Beach Police Officer Sunny Parker told Herald news partner CBS 4 News that he and his family were asleep in their home when he awoke to a popping sound.
“Around 5:30ish I heard a loud bang and saw through the blinds the car engulfed in flames,” Officer Parker told CBS 4.
Jenkins said both fires were related, with the first one reported about 5:20 a.m. and the second about 10 minutes later. Both cars were significantly damaged.
“It was deliberate and it appears to be targeting police departments,” he said. “Thank god it was early and no one was injured.”
Miami-Dade police won’t release the Miami-Dade officer’s name but said the car was valued at about $29,000.
Miami-Dade police Deputy Director Juan Perez said his department has received warnings of spikes in attacks on police from the Fusion Center, a network of 70 regional hubs around the country that includes local police, the Department of Homeland Security and FBI members.
Perez said the network, overseen by the Homeland Security, shares intelligence gathered by analysts and agencies. He said there has been an increase in attacks and ambushes on police nationwide. We don't get “only ISIS threats, but domestic threats,” as well, he said.
Perez said it's too early to determine if the fires are related to the two earlier incidents in the south end of the county in which patrol cars were hit by bullets.
Several of the incidents took place in the early morning hours before sunrise.
"It's the easiest time to attack an unattended police car," he said. "I can't recall four incidents happening so close together."
On Feb. 11, officers responding to a “shots fired” call at Gulfstream and Marlins roads in Cutler Bay found a parked “decoy” police car pocked with bullet holes.
The police car had Miami-Dade markings and was used to deter crime and speeding in the area. One of the bullets exited the vehicle and struck a residence in the 19700 block of Gulfstream Road, police said.
On Jan. 29, a Miami-Dade officer’s patrol car was shot up overnight while it was parked in front of her Southwest Miami-Dade home. The back window of the patrol car was blown out in the mysterious shooting.