Witness describes shooting on Palmetto Expressway
Horvin Samar Ruiz is the only person who knows for sure whether he wanted to die. As mightily as he seemed to try, he ultimately failed.
Ruiz, 36, turned his Toyota Corolla around on the Palmetto Expressway early Monday morning and drove head-on into traffic, crashing into a family of five, police said. Then he fired his modified semi-automatic weapon at their minivan, striking it repeatedly.
As other cars came to offer help, he fired at them, too. When police arrived, he fired the AK-47 until it ran out of ammunition. Then he dropped it on the ground and retrieved a 9 mm handgun from his damaged vehicle, according to police.
He fired at police officers through his car window. A cop shot back. Remarkably, after what can only be described as total bedlam, Ruiz dropped his weapons, got out of his car and surrendered.
Police said that Ruiz fired off at least 108 rounds from the AK-47 and handgun at drivers and officers along the Palmetto Expressway.
When police tallied the damage, at least 11 people had been classified as victims, meaning they were fired at or their vehicles were struck by bullets. Wang Hong-Feng, 37, whom Ruiz crashed into when he drove the wrong way on the Palmetto and whose car was struck multiple times by bullets, was driving with his pregnant wife and their three kids, ages, 2, 4 and 6. They weren’t injured.
Miami-Dade police Detective Robin Pinkard called it “amazing, by the grace of God,” that no one was shot. “The car he initially started shooting at was a family,” she said.
Ruiz was formally charged late Monday. He is facing 16 counts of first-degree attempted murder, eight counts of premeditated first-degree murder on a law enforcement officer, eight counts of aggravated assault on a cop and 16 counts of aggravated assault with a firearm.
He is being held at the Turner Guilford Knight correctional center and has been denied bond.
The chaos on the Palmetto Expressway happened only about three hours after two shooting deaths on Miami Beach late Sunday night. The trail of damage and bloodshed quickly turned what had been a mostly laid-back holiday weekend filled with music and pageantry into one of anger and confusion.
Police and eye witnesses said Ruiz was driving a burgundy Toyota Corolla south on the Palmetto near Northwest 74th Street, when for some unknown reason, he turned the car around and began driving into traffic. His car careened into the Hong-Feng family’s Honda Odyssey.
Ruiz got out of his damaged car holding the AK-47 — often a long semi-automatic rifle, but in this case shortened considerably — and began firing at the minivan while the family of five was still inside, striking it repeatedly. As other cars approached, Ruiz’s arrest affidavit says, he began firing at them.
By then, police from several agencies were on their way. To avoid a possible crossfire, police closed down the southbound lanes of the highway and approached on the north side.
The arrest affidavit says police yelled over and over for Ruiz to put down his weapon. He didn’t. But he did run out of ammunition and dropped the AK-47 to the ground. Then, he went back to his car and retrieved a 9 mm handgun. Police said when Ruiz fired at them through the car’s window, an officer returned fire.
Then, “the defendant, after discharging approximately 108 rounds, unexpectedly surrendered, raising his arms and laying on the roadway.” Ruiz was taken into custody.
In all, police said, seven vehicles were struck by rounds fired by Ruiz. One man identified as Enrique Jose Bendana, 35, was struck by debris — possibly a piece of his car dislodged by a bullet. He managed to drive himself to a Doral gas station. Miami-Dade Fire Rescue found him there and took him to the hospital.
Miami Herald staff writer Joey Flechas contributed to this report.