As Gary King and his wife made their way home from dinner Tuesday night, the veteran Doral cop thought a red Toyota Camry was tailing him. By the time he parked in the driveway of his Palmetto Bay home, the car was out of sight.
Once out of their car, the couple were confronted by two men. King’s wife was thrown to the ground, according to police, and King fought with one of the men, who eventually gained control of the officer’s gun.
A shot was fired, police said, and King, 70, was hit in the arm. It’s not clear if the bullet came from his weapon. The men also stole King’s wallet and watch before taking off, police believe, with two other men who were inside a parked four-door Toyota.
“They were ambushed,” Doral Police Chief Donald De Lucca said Wednesday. “He’s going to be OK, but he went through a long night and a long surgery.”
On Thursday, the department shared a photo of King with his arm bandaged surrounded by fellow officers who had escorted him home from the hospital.
“On behalf of the DPD many thanks to all of our law enforcement partners and @JacksonHealth South for bringing Lt. Gary King back home from recent ambush attack,” the department tweeted.
Within a few hours of the attack, police had detained two men in a red Toyota whom they interviewed through the night. By Wednesday night, police announced the arrest of Kionne Bell. Bell, 22, was being held in jail with no bond on charges including attempted second-degree murder, armed robbery, aggravated battery on a person 65 years or older and armed burglary. On Thursday, a judge ordered him held with no bond.
Bell is also accused of attacking another 70-year-old man outside of his home earlier this month, according to Miami Herald news partner CBS 4. In the Jan. 9 incident, Julio Lozano was taking out his garbage at his southwest Miami-Dade home when two men confronted him, the station reported. Lozano told CBS 4 he was punched and pushed to the ground and had his gold necklace and $600 stolen. Court records show Bell has three additional charges, including armed robbery and battery against an elderly person.
In King’s case, police are still looking for at least one more person.
“He actually observed a vehicle he thought was suspicious,” said Miami-Dade Police Director Juan Perez. “When he parked, it wasn’t there anymore. His wife had some minor injuries. They threw her to the ground.”
King, a commander in Doral’s traffic unit, began his career with Miami police in 1969. He joined the Miami-Dade police department in 1982 and served there through 2007. He has spent the past decade with Doral.
According to police and law enforcement sources, King and his wife had gone to Home Depot and then grabbed dinner at Outback Steakhouse near U.S. 1 and Southwest 136th Street. After dinner they headed to their Palmetto Bay home in the 8000 block of Southwest 139th Terrace. They got home just before 10 p.m.
The shooting of an officer — even off-duty and likely a random act — created a high alert for several nearby police departments who flooded the neighborhood east of U.S. 1 and just south of Pinecrest. King was transported by Miami-Dade Fire Rescue to Jackson South Community Hospital, where he underwent successful surgery, police said.
Police do not believe the shooters knew King was a police officer when they chose to follow him. Miami-Dade’s robbery unit is investigating the shooting.
“He was followed home and ambushed in his driveway,” Perez, the county police director, said during a press conference Wednesday. “We don’t want to divulge anything that is part of the case. But they [the suspects] were armed. At minimum, we know they had the officer’s gun. The number of shots and who fired what, that’s still being investigated.”
Anyone with information should call Miami-Dade Crime Stoppers at 305-471-TIPS (8477).
Miami Herald staff writer Carli Teproff contributed to this report.