Miami-Dade County

2 men dead in shootout that closed I-95 during rush hour and beyond

A deadly shooting early Monday between people in two vehicles on one of the busiest rush-hour roadways in South Florida left two men dead and tens of thousands of commuters fuming in an epic gridlock.

The southbound lanes of Interstate 95 from just south of Northwest 95th Street were closed around 5 a.m. Monday morning and didn’t reopen until around 2 p.m.

The reason: A four-door, dark-colored vehicle involved in a shootout spun out of control and came to a stop in the center lane. Inside the car police found one man shot dead. Another injured man was discovered along the road on the other side of the highway. He died after being transported to Jackson Memorial Hospital, police said.

Through the morning and well into early afternoon, police remained on the scene and the highway remained closed. Police said Monday evening they were still working to find out what sparked the gunfire. It wasn’t clear if the man who died at Jackson was shot, or even if he was involved in the shooting, police said.

“Unfortunately, this morning two men lost their lives,” said Miami-Dade police Detective Marjorie Eloi. “We don’t know if the occupants were in the same vehicle.”

I-95 south remained closed a good nine hours after the shooting, backing traffic up all the way into Broward County and causing three- and four-hour delays for surly commuters headed to downtown Miami. Drivers were redirected to Northwest Second and Seventh avenues as alternate north-south routes.

But the thousands of commuters directed to the side streets made those roads practically unnavigable. The massive traffic tie-up even affected the court system: The high-profile trial of alleged Facebook killer Derek Medina was delayed more than 90 minutes.

Miami-Dade Detective Alvaro Zabaleta said police made the call to shut down the county’s major transportation artery.

“We can’t cut corners to facilitate things,’’ he said. “We need to keep it safe for police and preserve the scene.”

A different decision was made during a September incident on southbound I-95 at Northwest 119th Street. The road was closed after an officer shot and killed a man who bit off part of the policeman’s finger. Then, police kept traffic flowing — slowly, but moving — by opening a southbound lane. As the day wore on, police opened additional lanes. That traffic delay was not nearly as bad as Monday’s.

The duration of the closure was unusual, said Gus Pego, local District Six Florida Department of Transportation secretary.

“I personally can't remember the last time I-95 was closed for this long,” he said.

The grueling — and often boring — wait had Twitter users firing off selfies and quips. Some of the posts blasted the county for blocking the traffic flow. Others were humorous. A few couldn’t understand why two deaths should delay their drive to work.

According to police, the department’s Northside District first received a call at 4 a.m. that shots had been fired on the highway. When they got there they discovered one vehicle blocking southbound traffic on I-95 and another abandoned car nearby.

In the first car was a man, shot dead. Miami Herald news partner CBS 4 identified the man as Nathaniel Peterson, 23, the father of one child. The other victim had not been identified by early afternoon Monday.