What began as a police call for a dispute at a taxi company mushroomed into an action-packed chase and shootout involving a stolen cop car, an exchange of gunfire between a man and police officers in two separate locations, and bullet wounds to two innocent victims driving their cars in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Police said the injured drivers will recover. A rookie Miami police officer on his first solo shift was treated briefly before being led away by his union representative. And the male suspect wielding the high-powered rifle responsible for the chaos was taken to Jackson Memorial Hospital after being shot by a North Miami police officer.
The wild series of events played out Tuesday morning through three jurisdictions as children went to school and their parents headed for work. Many sections of central Miami-Dade County, including North Miami and Miami, were at a standstill during the busy morning rush hour.
“I had no idea who was shooting. We were at first trying to get everyone to take cover. It was very scary,” said Rachel Ambrose, who was walking her 7-year-old son to Jesse J. McCrary Elementary School just south of Northwest 79th Street when the gunfire erupted.
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Miraculously, no one died. And in urban neighborhoods accustomed to unpredictable events, Tuesday’s drama had police scratching their heads.
“It was definitely a crazy day,” said North Miami police officer Natalie Buisseneth.
Late Tuesday night, North Miami police charged Frantzy Armand, 29, with attempted murder of a law enforcement officer. They said more charges are expected.
Police are still trying to piece together the puzzle, which drew the attention of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. The state agency will only investigate the Miami officer who fired his weapon. North Miami will undertake its own investigation.
According to police and witnesses, the day’s events began early Tuesday when Miami police received a call saying someone was vandalizing a taxi company at 198 NW 79th St. Though the address listed there belongs to the Flamingo Cab company, a manager at Central Cab in Miami Beach confirmed that the man involved in Tuesday’s shootings has worked with Central for several years. Police could not confirm whether the call was related to the chase and shootout.
Soon after the call, a Miami police officer spotted the cab driver speeding near Northwest 79th Street and Fourth Avenue. When the driver stopped his car, he got out firing a high-powered assault rifle, according to police. Though the officer wasn’t struck by a bullet, someone driving a vehicle on 79th Street was hit during the exchange of gunfire. That person, whose name wasn’t released, was taken to the hospital and is expected to recover. Police haven’t determined if the bullet that hit the driver came from the suspect or the officer.
As the cop dived for cover, a man watching the scene unfold came to the officer’s aid and helped him into a vehicle. By then, other patrol cars were flying to the scene.
The officer, who hasn’t been named, and the good Samaritan somehow ended up on Northeast Fourth Avenue just north of 79th Street, a small spit of roadway just west of the Little River and between a set of railroad tracks and some small warehouses.
The officer — only on the beat nine months — was treated briefly by Miami paramedics before getting into a vehicle belonging to Fraternal Order of Police President Javier Ortiz. Police cordoned off Northeast Fourth Avenue from 79th to 82nd streets.
“The offender attempted to murder our law enforcement brother,” Ortiz said in a statement. “Our officer returned fire and a good Samaritan provided cover and rescued him while the offender continued to shoot at him with an assault rifle.”
Somehow, as police radios crackled with details about the exchange of gunfire, the suspect scurried north in the stolen police car to North Miami, where police said he indiscriminately fired into a black two-door convertible Pontiac at Northeast 123rd Street and 15th Avenue. Several blocks of 123rd Street were also cordoned off for hours on Tuesday.
“We have a victim. She was unrelated” to the events. “She was struck” by a bullet, said Buisseneth, the North Miami officer. “He was in the patrol car. He shot her. She was driving.”
The suspect continued his eastward trek to Biscayne Boulevard, then turned east on Sans Souci Boulevard into a tree-lined neighborhood filled with high-rises, homes and tennis courts. Buisseneth said that when the suspect got out of the patrol car and began firing again, the noise caught the attention of a nearby North Miami police officer. The officer engaged the suspect and shot him, police said.
“The subject was neutralized,” Buisseneth said.
Armand still hasn't been charged in Miami by Wednesday morning.
Miami police detective Freddie Cruz said police were trying to determine what caused the man to go on a shooting binge and steal a police car.
A manager at Central Cab in Miami Beach confirmed that the man believed to be responsible for the shootings has worked there for a few years. He wouldn’t release the cab driver’s name, and then hung up the phone.