Aventura - Sunny Isles

Police: Suspect we shot at near busy Aventura strip mall used car as weapon

Firefighters take aerial pics of crime scene near Target in Aventura after a shoplifter took off and cops shot at the car.
Firefighters take aerial pics of crime scene near Target in Aventura after a shoplifter took off and cops shot at the car. Miami Herald Staff

Two Aventura officers in a busy strip-mall parking lot fired their weapons into a car Tuesday to stop a man suspected of stealing video games from running over another officer, police said.

The suspect, driving a black four-door Acura TL with bullet holes and a blown-out rear windshield, initially got away. He evaded Aventura officers by fleeing south on Biscayne Boulevard. He was captured late Tuesday afternoon in Broward County.

“He was using a deadly weapon against an officer,” said Aventura Police Maj. Skip Washa.

No officers or visitors at the shopping center — which includes a Target, Whole Foods Market and Best Buy — were hurt. Police weren’t sure whether the suspect was hit by a bullet or injured by glass fragments.

The car raced from the parking lot from the Target store at 21265 Biscayne Blvd. at about 10:30 a.m. Other police agencies joined in the search.

Washa said police were called to the Target by store security who alerted them to a man in the store using tools to pry open locks on video games, and steal them by stuffing them down his pants. The guards said they recognized the man because he had targeted other Target stores from West Palm Beach to Miami.

Washa defended the use of deadly force in the crowded parking lot, saying the response was warranted because it involved a violent felony.

“In the attempted murder of a police officer, you can use deadly force,” he said.

Washa said officers alerted to the suspect were waiting for him outside the store, but the man got spooked and ran. He scrambled out the front door. Police went after him through the parking lot, then around and between parked cars. They lost sight of him as shoppers scrambled.

When officers finally found the man sitting inside a parked black Acura, one officer got in front of it and placed his hands on the hood and ordered the man out, Washa said. Two other officers approached from behind.

When the car lurched forward, police said the officer in front of the car dived to safety as the two behind the car fired their guns. Aventura police Capt. Michael Bentolila said earlier that the two Aventura officers fired their weapons as the man backed up the Acura toward them.

Bentolila said the department’s internal affairs division will investigate the shooting and pass their findings on to the Miami-Dade state attorney’s office. Two state investigators were at the scene Tuesday looking into the shooting. The officers haven’t been named.

The suspect, identified as Jimmy J. Daniel, 30, fled south on Biscayne Boulevard. Other police agencies were notified and Broward sheriff’s deputies found Daniel on Tuesday afternoon in North Lauderdale, where police said he had hidden the car in a friend’s garage. He was taken into custody from his friend’s house without incident. U.S. Marshal’s Service escorted him back to Aventura.

The police chase and shooting shook up the busy center, just south of Gulfstream Park’s horse track and casino. A large section of the parking lot was marked off by crime-scene tape into the afternoon as police investigated. Firefighters used a ladder to take aerial photos of the scene. More than a dozen markings indicated bullet casings on the parking lot ground.

Felipe Salazar told Miami Herald news partner CBS4 that he was just leaving a Best Buy next to Target when the fireworks began.

“Just bullets. I heard bullets like firecrackers, and then I saw people running,” Salazar said.

Firing at or chasing a moving or stationary vehicle has become a sticky issue for police departments around the country and in South Florida — especially after the 2011 Memorial Weekend shooting of Raymond Herisse in Miami Beach. Herisse died that day — and four innocent bystanders were badly wounded — when police fired 116 rounds into his Hyundai as it slowly rolled down Collins Avenue. Nearly four years later, the case remains under investigation by Miami-Dade prosecutors.

The Aventura Police Department’s policy into shooting at vehicles is similar to Miami-Dade County’s, the largest police force in the southeastern U.S.

Police are permitted to fire into a vehicle if it “poses an imminent threat of death or serious physical injury to the officer or to another person.”

However, the rules regarding shooting at vehicles changed in the city of Miami a few years ago after a man was shot and killed by police as he sat in a car stuck in traffic during the Martin Luther King Day Parade. And the policy was overhauled in Miami Beach last October. Miami and Miami Beach officers can no longer fire their weapons toward a car unless someone inside the vehicle displays a weapon or fires first.

Aventura police said there was no indication that Daniel displayed a hand-held weapon or a gun. They said he was using his vehicle as a weapon.

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