On a sunny day, two men — one a white-haired senior citizen, the other a younger man sporting dark sunglasses and one earring — walked up to a Hialeah auto body shop. Both carried pistols.
In an instant, the men shoved Jorge Verdecia into a black Nissan Altima. “Calm down, you’re going to die today,” one man barked.
Visiting from Germany, Verdecia thought the attack was some sort of joke — until he was viciously pistol-whipped and one gunman repeatedly pulled the trigger, the pistol jamming until one bullet discharged harmlessly.
But what appeared to be a coordinated hit, all captured on newly released video surveillance, unraveled quickly when one gunman realized something. “Viejo,” the younger man blurted out. “Old man, this isn’t them!”
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Miami Herald
The gunmen, Oscar Rua Torbizco and Orlando Hernandez, ran off and hopped into a Ford Explorer. What unfolded was a cinematic car chase — with Verdecia and his son, who had come out of the shop, the very victims, chasing their attackers.
Gunfire erupted, and soon an off-duty rookie police officer nabbed the bad guys on a dead-end street.
“Everything weaved together into this rather incredible story,” Miami-Dade prosecutor Sonali Desai said.
Both men were convicted at a joint trial in August. Last week, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Marisa Tinkler Mendez sentenced 75-year-old Rua to 70 years in prison.
Hernandez, 48, is facing up to life in prison. He was supposed to be sentenced Friday, but the hearing was delayed as his defense lawyers, Bob Pardo and Matthew Meyers, ask for a new trial.
Both men were convicted of aggravated assault with a firearm, kidnapping, armed burglary and fleeing police at high speed.
Prosecutors say Verdecia, 56, and his son, Juliedys Gutierrez, 32, were innocent victims. Exactly who the intended targets were remains unknown, but the would-be hit was likely drug related, authorities believe.
The two gunmen were no strangers to crime. Rua served 16 years in federal prison for armed cocaine trafficking. He was released in 2008.
In the 1990s, Hernandez served about four years in state prison for armed drug trafficking and robbery convictions in Hillsborough County.
Witnesses and evidence at trial detailed the March 2013 attack that started outside the auto body shop on the 2600 block of West 76th Street. That’s when Verdecia and his son, who owned the body shop, pulled up in their Altima to pick up some equipment.
After Rua and Hernandez realized they had the wrong people, Gutierrez ran back into the body shop — and bizarrely grabbed a mop stick to defend himself.
Then, he and his father got into the Altima and gave chase to the attackers. “They were very courageous,” said Desai, who tried the case with prosecutor Adam Korn.
At trial, jurors heard that during the chase, the elderly Rua leaned out of the fleeing Ford and began shooting at the Nissan — an explosion of gunfire clearly heard on a 911 emergency call.
When Gutierrez and his father realized they were being shot at, they busted a U-turn and zoomed off. The Ford turned around and gave chase.
The gunmen eventually stopped their pursuit, while Gutierrez and his father pulled over and sought help from a group of Jehovah Witnesses.
At that moment, rookie Hialeah Gardens Officer Michael Barilari had just gotten off duty when he heard the police emergency bulletin.
He spotted the Ford pulling into a Shell gas station at 7750 NW 103rd St.
Another chase ensued but ended when Rua and Hernandez pulled into a dead end street near the Palmetto Expressway. As they tried to run off, Barilari arrested them at gunpoint.
The entire episode lasted less than 20 minutes.