A police officer earning some extra money over the holidays working off-duty but in uniform at a Walmart near Hialeah was shot several times Wednesday during a gunfight that left a suspected shoplifter dead.
Miami-Dade police officer Manuel Gonzalez was taken to Jackson Memorial Hospital in a patrol car and limped into the emergency room on his own while accompanied by two Miami-Dade Fire Rescue workers.
He was in stable condition after suffering “multiple” gunshot wounds, police said. Gonzalez, a seven-year veteran who is married and has two young children, is expected to survive.
The suspect, a convicted murderer named David Facen, 54, lay dead and covered by a yellow tarp between two vehicles in the Walmart parking lot, several hundred feet from the store’s entrance.
Facen was on probation and had just gotten out of state prison last year after serving 11 years for aggravated battery with a firearm and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. He also did time in prison for murder, getting out in 2002 after serving nine years of a 20-year sentence, state records show.
Police said Gonzalez was alerted to the possible shoplifter trying to make off with a flatscreen television from the Walmart at 3200 NW 79th St. At some point in the parking lot, both men opened fire. It wasn’t clear who fired first, but police said the suspect pulled out a gun before any shots were exchanged.
About a dozen yellow markers surrounded the man’s body, indicating possible bullet shells.
The shootout took place in a packed parking lot during the busy Christmas shopping season. Though the Walmart Supercenter was closed off to the media, dozens of shoppers could be seen walking slowly out of the store and past the yellow police tape that blocked off the entrance on Northwest 32nd Avenue.
Police said the officer initially confronted the suspect inside the store and followed him out to the parking lot as he pushed a shopping cart carrying the flat-screen television.
Speaking from just outside the emergency room at Jackson Memorial where Gonzalez was recovering, Miami-Dade Police Director Juan Perez said the gunfight was at close range and that a weapon was found at the scene that police believe belongs to the suspected shoplifter.
The director said Gonzalez was alert and in “great spirits.”
“We need to stop the violence at all levels,” said Perez. “Someone almost lost their life over some merchandise at a Walmart.”
In fact, someone did lose their life.
The last Miami-Dade officers to be killed on duty were Amanda Haworth and Roger Castillo, gunned down in 2011 while serving a warrant on a violent 23-year-old felon and career criminal named Johnny Sims. Another officer was injured, but survived. A fourth officer shot and killed Sims.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which investigates all Miami-Dade officer-involved shootings, will lead the investigation. Ultimately, Miami-Dade prosecutors will have to determine if the officer was justified in his use of deadly force.
Miami Herald staff writer David J. Neal contributed to this report.