As the whole world watched, police in South Florida chased robbery suspects through two counties, ending as suspects and police unloaded a hail of bullets.
By the time the high-speed police chase ended, four people were dead, including the two men who police identify as armed robbers who set off the evening’s tragic events.
Almost a week later, the public still knows very little other than what was captured by news helicopters and other onlookers.
On Tuesday, CNN reported that at least 18 law enforcement officers fired their guns during the Dec. 5 shootout that ended at an intersection in Miramar. Most of the police who fired shots were from Miami-Dade Police Department, who followed a UPS truck allegedly hijacked by the armed robbery suspects. CNN reports that 13 officers fired shots, though it is unclear who started firing at whom.
Miami-Dade police crossed county lines into Broward to get involved in the shootout, which killed a bystander, Richard “Rick” Cutshaw, the two suspects, Lamar Alexander and Ronnie Jerome Hill, and the UPS driver, Frank Ordonez.
Media accounts say that “officers ran up and opened fire from behind the cars of innocent bystanders.”
Police put the blame squarely on the shoulders of the robbery suspects. Police said that they were alerted to a robbery at a Coral Gables jewelry store and that shots had been fired. Reports say that a bullet ended up flying through the window of Coral Gables’ city hall. So, no question, police knew they were dealing with dangerous and desperate suspects.
But the public deserves a full accounting as to why so many lives were put in danger to apprehend two.
Media reports say during the chase police barely avoided getting into accidents. Officers are usually making decisions in split seconds but this chase did not qualify as a split-second decision maker. Why weren’t road blocks set up to stop or slower the chase before the suspects entered another busy community? What are the protocols when a potential hostage is involved? Why didn’t police try to negotiate a release?
The biggest question on people’s minds is who shot whom? Were Cutshaw and Ordonez killed by friendly fire? The FBI, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and all the agencies involved need to provide the public and the families of all with a transparent accounting of what happened that fateful December evening.
Crime is what police are charged to protect the public from. And in trying to foil a robbery innocent lives were lost. Why did it end this way?