Two innocent civilians were gunned down on Thursday in a tragedy that unfolded in Miramar, Florida. Family and friends are now grieving the loss of a UPS driver killed after being taken hostage by armed robbers. An innocent bystander who just happened to be driving down the highway was also killed in the crossfire as responding cops hid behind the vehicles of bystanders, using them as human shields.
The deadly incident began as an armed robbery Thursday afternoon at a Regent Jewelers in Coral Gables. When the thugs escaped the robbery, they hijacked a UPS truck as the driver was making deliveries. The two suspects also reportedly stole a U-Haul truck before carjacking the UPS truck, but the chase tragically ended in the UPS truck.
The truck led police on a long chase, hopping curbs, doing U-turns and maneuvering around other vehicles and police. There appeared to be dozens of police officers and vehicles in pursuit of the UPS truck as it sped along multi-lane roads and through intersections, and at one point, the line of emergency vehicles trailing the truck stretched for about half a mile.
By the time the chase ended, more than 40 emergency vehicles were stopped behind the truck, lights flashing.
The incident came to an end when the truck encountered stopped traffic at an intersection.
Some 19 officers from five different agencies surrounded the UPS truck on the highway with weapons drawn. As the video shows, the officers placed innocent civilians between them and the robbers, literally using them as human shields.
As the helicopter footage shows, the robbers inside the truck were firing shots from inside. However, they were heavily outgunned by the officers who were estimated to have unloaded over 200 rounds into the truck.
“This is what dangerous people do to get away, and this is what dangerous people will do to avoid capture,” Coral Gables Police Chief Edward J. Hudak Jr. said.
UPS issued a statement Thursday night, saying, “We are deeply saddened to learn a UPS service provider was a victim of this senseless act of violence. We extend our condolences to the family and friends of our employee and the other victims involved in this incident.”
WFOR reported the name of the driver as Frank Ordonez, one of four people killed in the incident. His brother told CBS Miami he’d been a driver with UPS for the past five years but that this was his first day as a solo UPS driver. Ordonez leaves behind his wife and one-year-old daughter.
It is still unclear as to who fired first in this situation. However, one thing is perfectly clear and that is the fact that police were seen using innocent civilians as human shields, placing them all in danger.
When asked if the UPS driver was killed by police or the robbers, the FBI could not say, only reporting that it is now part of an investigation.
George Piro, a Federal Bureau of Investigation agent, told reporters it would be “completely inappropriate” to discuss whether the UPS driver or the bystander may have been hit by officers’ gunfire.
“We have just begun to process the crime scene,” he said. “As you can imagine, this is going to be a very complicated crime scene.”
While the FBI isn’t saying much, Ordonez’ stepfather claims he knows who is responsible — the cops.
“They murdered him,” Joe Merino, the stepfather of Frank Ordonez, told Local 10 News. “I hope you can understand that and how I feel because it could have been prevented.”
“I have common sense, like we all do, and it shows me, where’s the protocol? Where was protocol? Where was SWAT? Where was the hostage negotiator? Where was the sniper?” Merino said. “They shot him dead!”
Morena told Local 10 that police ignored the safety of everyone involved when they reacted to the situation on Thursday.
“The negligence, the irresponsibility, the lack of life, the lack of concern,” Merino said. “The disregard for life for the victim.”
“There’s bullets everywhere,” he said. “It was a war zone. How can this happen in today’s day and age?”
Indeed, multiple videos from bystanders show a chaotic scene unfold as police exchange gunfire with the armed robbers, as Merino notes — “like the wild wild west.”
My friend sent me this 🤯 pic.twitter.com/E5SjLOSbyY
— Kevin Reinoso♛ (@kevinreinosoo) December 6, 2019
In the videos you can clearly see officers using innocent motorists as shields from multiple angles.
— Joel Franco (@OfficialJoelF) December 5, 2019
It is no question that situations like this are extremely difficult to resolve. However, the result of cornering two armed thugs who have already shown their propensity to fire weapons in public was predictable. Forensics and autopsies will ultimately reveal who was killed by police bullets and who was killed by the armed thugs. One thing is certain though, and that is that using civilians as shields is unacceptable.