A grisly scene unfolded Saturday morning in the middle of a busy South Beach thoroughfare when police shot and killed a man who allegedly held up a bank, fled to a nearby barbershop and then confronted officers with a straight edge razor — a startling moment captured on video and quickly shared on social media.
A number of videos surfaced throughout the day of the deadly encounter. Warning: the videos are graphic.
In one video posted to YouTube, the bald, shirtless man wearing blue jeans and holding a straight razor in his right hand walks toward a group of Miami Beach police officers who are aiming their weapons at him outside a barbershop on Alton Road.
Police can be heard yelling at the man to drop his knife. The man has a verbal exchange with police that is inaudible on the video, which appeared to be taken from across the street.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Miami Herald
In the video, the man places his left hand on the hood of a squad car, and raises his right hand to point across the street.
At that instant, the video shows, one police officer shoots a Taser at the man’s chest, and almost simultaneously a second police officer fires his assault rifle at the man. Two shots are heard in the video, and the man falls backward, clutching his chest as he drops to the street.
The two-minute video shows the man walking out of the barbershop and engaging verbally with police. The video does not show what happened prior to the man walking out of the barbershop.
Police Chief Daniel Oates said one officer on the scene was wearing a body camera that also captured the deadly encounter, but that the video cannot be released to the public yet under state law.
In a recent change of protocol, Oates said, the Miami-Dade Police Department will investigate the shooting, “in the interest of transparency.”
“It’s a horrible, isolated incident,” said Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine. “As we learn more about this incident from Miami-Dade police, from the state attorney’s office, we will make sure to keep everyone informed.”
Miami-Dade Det. Marjorie Eloi said that only one officer was involved in the shooting. She said he is a six-year veteran of the Miami Beach police force, but did not identify him.
The FBI, which is investigating the bank robbery, reported that the man shot dead by police first walked into the Bank of America at 1414 Alton Rd. at about 10:26 a.m. Saturday.
Special Agent Michael Leverock said in an email that the man, who has not been identified, showed a note to a bank employee demanding money and threatening that he had a bomb. The man also told a bank employee that he would shoot a customer, Leverock said.
But bank employees never gave him any money, and he left the bank.
No shots were fired. No object was left behind, and no one was injured, Leverock said.
Police found the man a short time later about a block away, at the RazzleDazzle Barbershop at 1530 Alton Rd.
Witnesses said they could see the man causing a commotion inside the barber shop. Oates said police urged him to come out, and that the man armed himself with the straight edge, removed his shirt and exited the store.
“He was challenged by the officers in the street,” Oates said, “and at some point during that confrontation he did raise his hand with a straight edge razor in it, and he was shot.”
In the video posted to YouTube, the man clearly raises his right hand as he’s standing by the hood of the squad car. The policeman with the assault rifle is standing by the trunk, on the same side of the car. The policeman who fired the Taser is on the opposite side of the car.
After the shooting, which occurred in front of the barber shop, witnesses gave conflicting accounts that officers had fired a Taser on the man. Police could not immediately verify whether officers fired a Taser during the encounter.
From what I saw, he just didn’t want to cooperate
Marcellus Johnson, local photographer who captured shooting on video
Authorities packed the stretch of Alton Road between 15th and 16th streets, closing down all traffic for hours as multiple agencies investigated.
The robbery-turned-shooting played out under gray, drizzly skies in Miami Beach, taking some residents by surprise as they went about their day on busy Alton Road.
While at a shopping plaza across the street from the incident on Alton, bystander John Pérez said he saw the man waving the razor inside the barbershop. After seeing the man shot, he felt the death was unnecessary.
“Shoot him in the leg,” he said. “Shoot him in the arm. But don’t kill him.”
The photographer who posted a second, widely-circulated video of the shooting, Marcellus Johnson, told the Miami Herald that he saw the man tap the shop’s front window with the razor while he was inside, and he heard the man say threatening things to officers during the confrontation.
The man appeared unwilling to listen to police.
“From what I saw, he just didn’t want to cooperate,” Johnson said.
Miami-Dade Police will investigate the shooting
Noel Baez, a mechanic at the Firestone across the street, saw the incident from the shop. He said right before the man walked out with a razor, he saw a woman come running out of the barbershop to look for help.
He said an officer then fired a Taser at the man before the gunshots.
“They Tazed him, but he kept coming,” Baez said. “That's when I heard the gunshots.”
Sylvia Rodriguez and her boyfriend were walking to the corner store to get milk when they saw the scene. She said the man was dead within five minutes of her arrival, and she didn’t hear his voice at all.
“Everything seemed under control. It wasn’t fast. It was pretty chill,” she said. “He was not acting erratic.”
Then the shirtless man, who was holding the razor, took a step forward.
Then came the shots.
“It went boom-boom, twice,” Rodriguez said, adding that she didn’t see a Taser go off.
The male officer who shot the man walked toward a parked police car near the northwest corner of the intersection after the shots were fired.
Rodriguez, 27, said she saw the officer flash a “slight smile” and thumbs up at the other officers.
“That’s what was making me angry,” she said. “It could have gone another way.”
The shooting marks the second violent episode in the Beach in less than 24 hours. On Friday night, a 24-year-old college student stabbed another woman with an X-Acto knife at Art Basel Miami Beach. Police said on Saturday the victim did not suffer life-threatening injuries.
Miami Herald writers Alex Harris, Daniel Hidalgo and Siobhan Morrissey contributed to this report.