Homestead - South Dade

Miami-Dade cops ‘should have waited’ before shooting teen dead, sister says

Officers investigate a police-involved shooting that left a suspect dead.
Officers investigate a police-involved shooting that left a suspect dead. Miami

The family of a teen armed robbery suspect killed by police early Thursday morning in Homestead wants answers from police.

Miami-Dade police identified Jorge Santiago Tapia, 15, as the person walking into a Walgreens store wearing a blue bandana over his mouth and neck and wearing sunglasses. Surveillance video shows the Coconut Palm Academy eighth-grader walking up to the clerk with a gun in his left hand and demanding cash.

The new surveillance shows the gun that police believe was pulled out by the suspect before he was shot.

“There should be justice for what they did to him,” said Angelica Santiago, the suspect’s sister. “The cops should have waited to see who was the suspect, not just say he was a grown man, who was going to kill them.”

The drama started just before 2 a.m. when a call to 911 said an armed man in a mask robbed a Walgreens at Southwest 288th Street and South Dixie Highway. Police say he threatened the clerk at gunpoint.

Video surveillance of the South Miami-Dade Walgreens armed robbery

“He had a mask on, he demanded money be placed inside his book bag and that’s when he fled the scene,” said Miami-Dade police spokesman Alvaro Zabaleta.

Arriving officers spotted a car that matched the description of a vehicle that the armed man drove off in.

After a brief pursuit, Zabaleta said Santiago’s car got a flat tire and came to a stop. Shots were fired.

“This individual, not only did he use the gun to commit the armed robbery, of course we have to assume he used the gun against the officers as well,” Zabaleta said.

Santiago’s sister says she believes her brother’s motivation was to help out the family. She says their father was in the process of being deported to Mexico and the family needed money.

“For the house, for the bills we can’t afford right now. Since I have other siblings, they’re younger and he didn’t want them to suffer,” she said.

A total of seven officers fired at the man who was killed. The president of the local police union said the officers believed the man had pulled a gun on them. It’s not clear if the man shot at the officers.

“We were dealing with an armed robber so it was a dangerous situation,” Zabaleta said. “We could have had officers injured or killed.”

Police recovered a handgun and backpack from the man’s car. None of the officers were injured.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is investigating whether the shooting was justified.

“He was a good kid,” Santiago’s sister said. “He did everything for his family.”