Miami Beach

Family of man killed in South Beach shooting says violence wasn’t among his issues

Pylons and a chain across the exit of South Beach Finest Hand Car Wash on the far left and, on the far right behind the security guard, the filled-in hole in the back of the Office Depot where Jose Antonio Reyes Bermudez crashed a Mercedes SUV after being shot.
Pylons and a chain across the exit of South Beach Finest Hand Car Wash on the far left and, on the far right behind the security guard, the filled-in hole in the back of the Office Depot where Jose Antonio Reyes Bermudez crashed a Mercedes SUV after being shot. dneal@MiamiHerald.com

Nothing about Jose Antonio Reyes Bermudez’s death in a car theft-shooting-crash incident in South Beach on Dec. 18 seems right to his family.

Not gunman Stephen Lott’s claim that he shot Reyes Bermudez to keep from being run over. Not how long it took Miami Beach police and fire-rescue to pull Reyes Bermudez out of the 2016 Mercedes SUV after it smashed a hole in the back of an Office Depot. Not Reyes Bermudez trying to steal the SUV.

Reyes Bermudez’s nephew Keu Reyes says the family didn’t even know what Reyes Bermudez was doing in Miami.

He lived in Orlando, where he started J&J Master Renovator in 2014, a year after his sixth Florida prison stint ended. Sunbiz.org says the business went through administrative dissolution in September.

“He did have mental problems but he was never violent,” Reyes said. “He had a company and employees. His drug usage stemmed from self-medicating. He did try to get help, but I guess it wasn’t enough.”

Reyes said Bermudez got in a cycle — use drugs, commit robberies and thefts to feed the addiction, get caught, do time, get clean, fall back into addiction.

“He sold everything he stole,” Reyes said. “It was all to take care of his addiction.”

That’s why what happened the morning of Dec. 18 made no sense to Reyes.

But what’s not in question is while the SUV was at South Beach’s Finest Hand Car Wash on 18th Street, half a block off Alton Road in Miami Beach, Reyes Bermudez got in the driver’s seat around 10 a.m. Dec. 18. Stephen Lott, who brought the Mercedes to the car wash for its owner, shot Bermudez.

Bermudez crashed into the back of the Office Depot, directly across 18th Street from the car wash.

The Miami Beach police incident report says when an officer arrived and asked who fired, Lott said, “I did! I was in fear for my life and I shot!”

Police pulled the gun out of his pocket and put him in a patrol car.

Meanwhile, police approached the crashed car with caution. Reyes Bermudez eventually was taken out and to Jackson Memorial Hospital’s Ryder Trauma Center, where he was declared dead. No one has officially stated whether the fatal injuries came from the shooting or the crash.

“It takes more time to take a gun out and aim and shoot than just to get out of the way of a running vehicle,” Reyes said.

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According to the incident report, Lott lives at the home of Ira Lang, a 24,000-square-foot chunk of Miami Beach valued with the 9,564-square-foot house at $8.7 million. Lott, 48, drives and does security for Lang.

Miami Beach police interviewed Lott Dec. 18 and 19. The investigation remains open. No charges have been filed yet.

State Rep. Michael Grieco, Lott’s attorney, said Sunday there had been no more conversations with Lott or requests by police to speak with him.

Since 1989, David J. Neal’s domain at the Miami Herald has expanded to include writing about Panthers (NHL and FIU), Dolphins, old school animation, food safety, fraud, naughty lawyers, bad doctors and all manner of breaking news. He drinks coladas whole. He does not work Indianapolis 500 Race Day.
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