Police shot and killed a 15-year-old who they said had just robbed a South Miami-Dade Walgreens, led them on a brief car chase, then threatened them with a handgun.
Late Thursday night police identified the teen as Jorge Santiago Tapia.
It was unclear late Thursday if the juvenile shot and killed by police fired his weapon. Police said at the very least he pointed a gun at an officer, leaving the two officers who fired at him little choice but to protect themselves.
“They absolutely felt their lives were in danger,” police union President John Rivera said.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Miami Herald
Jorge was found dead inside his vehicle eight blocks from the Walgreens, 28875 S. Dixie Hwy. It was unclear Thursday if the teen had exited his car before he was shot, or if police fired into the car.
Police also said they found a handgun in the white Acura driven by the robbery suspect, but that it would take interviews and forensic tests to determine if that weapon was fired at officers.
The two officers responding to the call, who also weren’t named, fired their weapons, according to police. The officers were not injured. Police said a patrol car had a bullet hole in its front windshield, but weren’t willing to say if it came from the suspect or from one of the officer’s weapons.
“We don’t know if [the dead teen] fired at all,” Miami-Dade police Detective Alvaro Zabaleta said. “We won’t know until we speak to the officers.”
Also in the car, according to police, a book bag the teen used to stash the money he stole from the Walgreens. Police didn’t say how much was taken. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement will investigate the shooting.
Thursday’s early morning shooting death by Miami-Dade police was third in less than a month. A fourth man was shot and injured in August when police returned gunfire while investigating a shooting.
The first shooting death was on Sept. 17, when an officer killed Jorge Suarez-Ruiz, 51, in front of his South Miami-Dade home. Police found a weapon under his body. Then on Sept. 29, an officer shot and killed 31-year-old Junior Prosper on the side of Interstate 95 near the Northwest 119th Street ramp after Prosper bit the officer’s finger off.
In Thursday’s incident, police said they were first contacted shortly before 2 a.m. by an employee at Walgreens who said a man wearing a mask and carrying a bag held up a store clerk at gunpoint. Police said the man was able to identify the getaway vehicle as a white car with four doors. Police found the Acura a short time later in a nearby parking lot.
“He demanded money... and fled,” Zabaleta said.
As officers approached, police said, the man fled in the vehicle, leading to an eight-block chase on Southwest 137th Avenue that ended at Southwest 280th Street after the man tried to make a sharp turn and blew out a tire. An altercation followed and the man was shot and killed. Police didn’t say Thursday whether an officer fired from inside his vehicle or after exiting it and approaching the suspect.
The shooting closed down Southwest 137th Avenue from 280th to 288th streets for several hours and well into the morning rush hour.
Police don’t believe the car was moving when the man was killed. Miami-Dade’s policy on firing into moving vehicles differs slightly from most other large police agencies in South Florida. While Miami and Miami Beach officers are forbidden from firing into a vehicle unless someone displays or fires a weapon, county cops have a less restrictive policy. They can fire into a vehicle if it “poses an imminent threat of death or serious physical injury to the officer or to another person.”