Miramar, FL – Authorities have identified the victims and suspects from a gunfight which left a hostage and passerby dead, as well as the suspects.
The violent scene began at about 4:15 p.m. on Dec. 5 when two armed men tried to rob Regent Jewelers in Corals Gables, The Washington Post reported.
A silent alarm was triggered and police responded.
Police said the gunmen, Lamar Alexander and Ronnie Hill,exchanged gunfire with the store owner.
During the incident, a female employee was struck in the head with the butt of a gun and seriously injured, before the robbers fled north in a U-Haul truck.
At about 4:36 p.m., the gunmen stopped and hijacked a UPS truck while the driver was making a delivery, according to The Washington Post.
Officers from Coral Gables, Pembroke Pines, and Miramar police departments all responded to assist with the chase, according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
The UPS driver was trapped inside the truck as the armed robbers led officers on a chase that ended on a roadway in Miramar, when the UPS truck got stuck in traffic and officers surrounded it.
Cell phone videos filmed by witnesses and helicopter video footage showed a chaotic scene with gunfire erupting from the UPS truck in all directions as citizens scrambled for cover and ducked down inside their exposed vehicles on Miramar Parkway.
The gunmen fired at officers and officers returned fire, using occupied vehicles stuck in traffic to hide behind as they engaged.
Bystanders were caught in the middle and by the time the gun battle ended at about 5:30 p.m., the UPS driver, both gunmen, and a 70-year-old innocent driver caught in the traffic near the scene were dead, The Washington Post reported.
It is not yet known whose bullets killed the UPS driver – later identified as 27-year-old Frank Ordonez – or civilian Richard Steven Cutshaw.
At least 13 police officers were shot at by the suspects but none were wounded, according to CNN.
Officers from multiple agencies fired their weapons during the chaotic gun battle, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported.
“This is what dangerous people do to get away,” Coral Gables Police Chief Ed Hudak said. “This is what people do to avoid capture.”
Chief Hudak said that violent hijacking had “turned into a hostage situation with the UPS driver,” the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported.
The family of the UPS driver and the innocent civilian who were killed have questioned police tactics that were used, claiming that officers used an unnecessary amount of deadly force, CNN reported.
Miami-Dade Police Director Juan Perez said officers had no choice but to engage the suspects because the armed robbers were “confronting officers, shooting at them,” CBS News reported.
But former Miami-Dade Police Chief Manny Orosa criticized the tactics the officers used given the number of citizens at the scene and the fact that there was a hostage.
“If you’re shooting into a truck and you don’t have a clear vision of who you’re shooting at, you don’t just shoot at the truck,” Orosa said.
Police union officials, however, said the officers handled the situation well, given what they had to work with.
“If you shoot at us, we are going to engage. We are going to stop the threat,” South Florida Police Benevolent Association President Steadman Stahl said. “When bad guys are shooting at you, how do you negotiate?”
All of the officers involved in the gunfight have been placed on paid administrative leave, as is protocol for all officer-involved shootings.
Miramar Police Spokeswoman Tania Rues said the Florida Department of Law Enforcement was heading up the investigation into the incident, The Washington Post reported.
Watch videos of the incident filmed by two different witnesses here below: