Miami-Dade Officers Indicted in 2019 High-Speed Chase Tragedy

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In a startling twist in an event that has already sent shockwaves through Florida, four officers from the Miami-Dade County Police Department have been indicted in relation to a 2019 shootout that tragically ended with four individuals dead. This grim tableau included a UPS driver, the two robbers who had hijacked him, and an unrelated driver who was fatally struck by a stray bullet. The South Florida Police Benevolent Association acknowledged the indictment on Tuesday and expressed their disappointment in the charges brought against the officers by the Broward County State Attorney’s Office.

Neither the specific charges against the officers nor their identities have been publicly disclosed. The indicted officers are due to turn themselves in next week. Presenting the union’s viewpoint, President Steadman Stahl explains their frustration at the indictment which has come nearly five years after the incident. He spoke of the few moments the officers were given to make life-altering decisions, illustrating the chilling effect such charges have on the mental wellbeing of officers serving Broward County.

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Keeping up with procedural decorum, Broward State Attorney Harold Pryor and his office refrained from commenting on the still-sealed indictment, which was first leaked by the Miami Herald. The Miami-Dade Police Department issued a statement, underscoring their commitment to the legal process for the sake of transparency and accountability.

The fracas started when two cousins, Lamar Alexander, 41, and Ronnie Jerome Hill, also 41, carried out an armed robbery at the Regent Jewelers in Coral Gables, a suburb of Miami. Officers were drawn to the scene by a silent alarm, only to find shots already being fired within the establishment, including a bullet that ricocheted and struck a store worker.

Making a swift exit, the two robbers proceeded to hijack a UPS van driven by Frank Ordonez, 27, instigating a high-tension chase across multiple jurisdictions through rush-hour traffic. News channels globally broadcast the chase prominently as the robbers evaded arrest, narrowly escaping collisions, and spewing gunfire from the hijacked van.

The macabre drama reached its climax in a busy intersection at a Fort Lauderdale suburb where gunfire erupted, leaving the hijacked UPS driver dead along with the two robbers. An unrelated motorist, Richard Cutshaw, 70, was also caught in the crossfire losing his life to a stray bullet.

In the aftermath of the incident, authorities have yet to confirm whether Cutshaw and Ordonez were killed by police gunfire, bullets from the robbers, or a combination of both. Policing experts while extending understanding to the conundrum that the officers faced, underscored the need to contain the robbers and prevent the danger from escalating further.

It’s exceedingly rare for Florida law enforcement officers to face charges for on-duty killings; the past 40 years have only recorded three such instances. In fact, a conviction was obtained only in one case. Most recently, three officers from Crestview are awaiting trial for the 2021 death of Calvin Wilks Jr., who perished after being tasered.

Elsewhere, former officer Nouman Raja from Palm Beach Gardens is in the midst of a 25-year prison term following his conviction for manslaughter and attempted murder in the 2015 shooting of Corey Jones, who was stranded on an interstate highway off-ramp when Raja approached him out of uniform.

In 2014, a Broward sheriff’s deputy faced a manslaughter charge pertaining to the shooting of a man recently in possession of an air rifle, which was dismissed by a judge. The indictment of the Miami-Dade County officers, therefore, marks a significant shift in the context of on-duty police killings in the state.