Miami-Dade County

Teen being questioned in Miami-Dade police shooting was once busted by wounded officer

Two Miami-Dade police detectives ambushed and shot Monday night

Miami-Dade Police Maj. Hector Llevat speaks to the media about a police involved shooting that took place on Monday, March 27, 2017. A large area was blocked off after two Miami-Dade police undercover detectives were shot as they sat in their unma
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Miami-Dade Police Maj. Hector Llevat speaks to the media about a police involved shooting that took place on Monday, March 27, 2017. A large area was blocked off after two Miami-Dade police undercover detectives were shot as they sat in their unma

A suspected Brownsville gang member who calls himself the “Creative Director of Shooting People” on his Facebook page was detained Tuesday as police investigated whether he was the gunman who wounded two Miami-Dade police detectives in an ambush-style attack.

The 19-year-old was detained for questioning Tuesday morning after police found him at a Hyatt hotel near Miami International Airport. Detectives received a tip about his identity and tracked him to the hotel, sources told the Miami Herald.

Homicide detectives were still questioning him on Tuesday evening as they looked to identify the assault rifle-wielding gunman who fired more than a dozen shots into an unmarked minivan used by Miami-Dade task force detectives Terence White and Charles Woods at the Annie Coleman housing projects in northwest Miami-Dade.

Their gray, four-door Dodge Caravan was pulverized Monday night. Its front windshield was still intact but pockmarked with nine bullet holes, which may have come from one of the detectives returning fire from the windshield. At least five other bullets left holes in the front and back passenger doors. The front passenger window was blown out.

And yet White, 47 and Woods, 37, veteran cops with almost four decades of experience between them, miraculously escaped major injury. White was shot in the leg and remained in the hospital on Tuesday. Woods was grazed on the arm and walked out of the hospital Tuesday morning.

The Miami Herald is not naming the teenage suspect because, as of Tuesday evening, he had not been charged.

The teen was not unfamiliar to police – Woods himself arrested him in January on a charge of carrying a concealed pistol, a case for which he is still awaiting trial.

The Monday night shooting, which police are calling an “ambush” even caught the attention of President Donald Trump, who brought it up Tuesday morning during a discussion at the White House with the National Fraternal Order of Police.

Though media weren’t permitted to view the event, FOP President Chuck Canterbury said Trump asked him specifically about the health of the two Miami-Dade detectives.

“He’s concerned there is too much violence in the country. And it’s no secret he has an affinity for law enforcement,” said Canterbury.

The suspect’s detention came after an intense, fast-moving search that involved multiple law-enforcement agencies and heavily armed officers going door-to-door throughout the neighborhood.

On Monday night, White and Woods were searching for drugs and guns as part of Miami-Dade Police’s Homicide Street Violence Task Force, started a couple years ago in response to a slew of gang-related shootings in the neighborhood.

The Annie Coleman projects, a sprawling complex of more than 20 buildings commonly called “PSU,” has long been known for shootings and drug sales.

READ MORE: Police ramp up efforts to curb North Miami-Dade shootings

On Monday night, the electricity in the projects had gone out because of a blown transformer, plunging the buildings into darkness as White and Woods parked their unmarked silver minivan in the courtyard of the building at 1937 NW 60th St. just before 10 p.m.

Law-enforcement sources said the detectives spied a suspicious car and a possible drug deal. Just as they calling in for backup, a group of men approached them – at least one them “clutching,” police parlance for holding a gun.

Suddenly, gunfire erupted, bursting the front passenger-side window. As least eight rifle bullets slammed into the van. One detective returned fire from inside the van, sources said.

The two detectives radioed for help. Fellow officers from the detail rushed to the scene, whisking the injured detectives away in the back of a black pickup truck.

Dramatic footage captured by a television news camera showed the truck pull up to Ryder Trauma Center at Jackson Memorial Hospital, and fellow officers helping White and Woods into the hospital.

“They were outnumbered and outgunned,” said John Rivera, president of the Police Benevolent Association, a labor union. “God was watching over them tonight.”

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez spoke outside the hospital.

“If they're brazen enough to to shoot at and try to kill police officers, they’ll shoot at others,” the mayor said. “They don’t deserve to belong on the streets in our community.”

After the shooting and well into Tuesday morning, dozens of police officers — some with K9s — swept through a 13-square-block stretch from Northwest 54th to 62nd streets between 17th and 22nd avenues. One resident called it “straight chaos, from 10 o’clock to six in the morning.”

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement was called in to investigate the gunfire by the detectives, while Miami-Dade’s homicide unit spearheaded police embarked on a massive hunt for the gunman.

Detectives spent hours in the dark knocking on doors in the two-story, multi-building Brownsville complex in search. By Tuesday morning, they learned the teen’s identity and tracked him to the Hyatt Place Miami Airport-East hotel at 3549 NW LeJeune Rd.

By Tuesday evening, police hadn’t officially labeled anyone as the shooter. Miami-Dade Detective Robin Pinkard said investigators hadn’t yet determined if any of the men being held were involved in the shooting.

Miami Herald staff writers David J. Neal and Carli Teproff contributed to this report.