Miami Beach

Cops: Robbery suspect killed by Miami Beach officer escaped halfway house

David W. Winesett
David W. Winesett Miami Beach police

David Winesett began his day by escaping a halfway house in Little Havana and boarding a bus from downtown Miami to South Beach.

The 51-year-old convicted bank robber was courteous to passengers, said fellow bus rider Alexandria Torch. Winesett, who Torch said sported tattoos of a swastika and the phrase “100% convict,” offered his seat to an elderly woman and asked a man who kept falling asleep next to him if he was OK.

“He seemed like he was in a really good mood,” said Torch, who got on the same bus around 9 a.m. Saturday at Government Center in downtown Miami. Torch was on her way to work at Apple A Day Cafe on Alton Road.

Winesett — who was serving a 12 1/2-year federal sentence followed by three years’ probation for robbing banks — wasn't heading to Art Basel or the sand on Miami Beach.

His stop was at the Bank of America on Alton Road. Once inside, he presented a teller with a hand-written note demanding money and threatening he had a bomb.

Within an hour — after a confrontation with police during which he wielded a straight-edge razor he had taken from a nearby barbershop — he was dead in the street after being shot twice by an officer.

During the confrontation in front of the RazzleDazzle Babershop, 1530 Alton Rd., Torch was ordered to leave her workplace next door. Standing outside, she was taken aback when she recognized Winesett from her morning commute.

“He seemed like he wasn’t all there mentally,” she said in retrospect.

On Sunday, Miami Beach police identified Winesett and released a clear surveillance picture of the bald man with a zipped-up black jacket at the teller window.

“According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, at the time of the attempted robbery, he was considered an escapee from that facility,” according to a Miami Beach police statement, referring to Riverside Christian Ministries, the halfway house.

After leaving the Bank of America, 1414 Alton Rd., empty-handed, Winesett headed to the barbershop. He armed himself with a straight-edge razor, came outside and was confronted by police.

The confrontation — which ended when an officer pumped two bullets into Winesett’s chest— was captured on cellphone video by bystanders and posted on YouTube.

Winesett is the eighth person shot by a South Florida police officer in the past month.

Winesett’s criminal history dates back to the 1980s. In 1986, he was charged with marijuana possession and writing bad checks in Georgia, records show. In 1997, was charged with robbing a bank.

A court document shows that on Dec. 8, 1997, Winesett robbed a SunTrust Bank in Daytona Beach. Attached is his handwritten note: “This is a hold up. Don’t Panic and you won’t get hurt. Put $1,000 inside of this paper now. 10-50s, 5-100s. I want it now.”

After being arrested, Winesett admitted to robbing a Fort Lauderdale bank four days earlier.

He was sentenced to almost 22 months in jail.

Records show Winesett was charged with robbing a Bank of America on Oct. 21, 2002. This time, he was sentenced to 12 1/2 years in prison and three years’ probation.

During his incarceration, Winesett wrote several notes to the judge on his case.

In one from 2003, Winesett asked the judge to “look at both sides of the picture” before sentencing him.

“I don’t know what happened in my life,” he wrote, “but I wish I could have been normal.”

Joey Flechas: 305-376-3602, @joeflech

Carli Teproff: 305-376-3587, @CTeproff

Related stories from Miami Herald