Why so many police?  Why does it take so long? Why on “my” street?

Homicide (a term which means the unnatural death of someone, not necessarily a criminal act), is the most serious type of incident the police investigate. When it involves law enforcement personnel, the amount of resources required, and level of scrutiny of the event increases exponentially in order to determine if what the officers/agents did was justified, or not.

There will be more Monday morning quarterbacks than the best Super Bowl has ever produced.  The criminal justice system brings together all levels of expertise, due process, due diligence and fact-finders in one place to be prepared…whether it was justified or not. They will have to answer to the public.

What Happened

Rumors were swirling yesterday and, as with any ongoing investigation, police will appropriately not provide much detail about what happened to the public or curious neighbors.  However, there is video.

At approximately 2:30pm yesterday, agents from Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), a federal law enforcement agency which conducts international investigations of criminal organizations related to illegal travel, finance, trade, and immigration attempted to arrest a target as part of an ongoing financial crimes investigation. Recorded video of the incident from a house on Mantua shows four undercover vehicles pursuing a vehicle driving at a rapid pace East on Mantua Ave.  One of the agents pulled around the suspects, blocked them in, and all of the agents surrounded the car.

While it’s not possible to see the actual shooting occur due to the camera angle, the video shows the suspect vehicle surrounded and smoke emitting from shots being fired. According to news stories, the suspects had a gun.

Based on the video footage, it appears the agents were pursuing this vehicle which likely turned off of Red road to evade police. While there is speculation/rumor that an empty house on Mantua Ave may have been a drop location where the suspects were going to pick up currency, this is not confirmed, and the house may in fact have nothing to do with the incident.

Based on the recently viewed video footage, it appears more likely that agents were already trying to stop the suspects.  One neighbor is indicating the empty house was not searched, photographed, or the subject of any kind of interest by law enforcement last night, suggesting it might not have had anything to do with the incident. Maybe so, maybe not. We don’t know yet.

Law enforcement has indicated however, the suspects were targets of a large-scale extortion-related fraud investigation. Apparently, they were part of an international ring of scammers who victimize unsuspecting people via phone calls, or by other means, and extort money from them.

The more common scams are committed via an international call-center, managed by criminals who identify their targeted victims via social media accounts, gather background information on them, and call them stating their loved-one (referred to by name- obtained from a Facebook account etc.) has been harmed, or arrested, or is otherwise somehow in need of money. The victims believe what they are being told; the suspects have done their homework and use the publicly posted information against them, and instruct the victim to send money somewhere to help their loved-one.

These scams net hundreds of millions of dollars which are, in part, used to fund international terrorist organizations. Law enforcement actively investigates these criminal enterprises and sometimes is able to identify local participants, track down the money trail, and arrest suspects in the process of getting the victim’s money. It appears this may be what happened yesterday, and it’s likely law enforcement was attempting to make an arrest.

 

 

Why So Many Police

Police involved shootings are like plane crashes. The events which transpired are determined after the fact by reconstructing the scene and putting the pieces of the puzzle back together.  This requires a lot of specialized resources.

 5 agencies were involved in this incident.

HSI

The shooting directly involved 4-5 HSI agents who were involved in a homicide of the suspects. Naturally, their supervisors will respond and participate in the investigation. Because it is a law enforcement involved shooting, HSI management will also respond, along with command level personnel, and internal affairs personnel, all of whom participate in determining what happened. Legal representatives of the agents will also respond to the scene.  Total HSI personnel: approximately 15-20.

 

Miami-Dade Police Homicide Unit

Because a homicide occurred in Miami-Dade County, MDPD homicide investigators will respond to determine how/why the person died. They have county-wide responsibility for these kinds of investigations, have the crime lab, and the homicide experts responsible for all homicides. These detectives canvass the neighborhood, interview witnesses, look for evidence. This requires a homicide team, typically 3-4 detectives, and 1-2 supervisors.  The MDPD Crime Scene Investigations Unit will also respond with CSI personnel who photograph and video the scene, and collect all evidence. MDPD’s job is to document how the homicide occurred. Total homicide investigations personnel typically 8-10.

 

Florida Department of Law Enforcement

Police involved homicides are investigated by a neutral investigative entity to determine if the police shooting was justified. This is FDLE’s job. They will send investigators as well who will interview the agents, witnesses and surviving suspects. Total FDLE personnel typically 4-8 investigators.

 

Coral Gables Police

Because the incident happened in Coral Gables, CGPD officers, detectives and management personnel will also respond to help secure the scene, block traffic, and assist the other agencies as needed. Total personnel approximately 10-15.

 

Medical Examiner’s Office

The ME office responds to all homicides. A forensics team and medical examiner will inspect the deceased, take photographs, process the scene, and give approval to take the body from the scene. Total personnel: typically 3-4.

 

 

All of these agencies will send media relations personnel to answer questions from the media.

Total personnel required for a police involved shooting: typically 50+

 

 

 Why Did It Take So Long?

Someone was killed. It’s a big investigation. And, a search warrant had to be obtained by law enforcement in order to legally enter the suspects vehicle to search for evidence. It usually takes a few hours to get a warrant drafted and signed by a judge.

 

 

Why on My Street?

We don’t know. What is known is law enforcement can’t control where criminals go in most situations unless it’s a planned event. And based on the video in this case, it appears HSI attempted to stop suspects fleeing in a car. Whether it involved a house on Mantua is speculation at this point.

Police work is dangerous.  Criminals apparently were intent on shooting federal agents yesterday.  The agents did what the suspects forced them to do. Shoot.

 

About The Author

Ed Claughton, President of PRI, is a retired police lieutenant from the Coral Gables Police Department who worked for several years in the Economic Crimes Unit, investigating local and international financial related crimes and criminal organizations. As a former police officer, detective, and commander, he has participated in the investigations of homicides, frauds, and commerce-related crimes, and ultimately managed various units within the police department. Ed is the founder of PRI, a law enforcement technology and records management consulting firm which serves agencies across the US, assisting with technology systems and related consulting services.