A Shot in the Dark

Who did Mario Barcia think he was aiming at when he shot a cop?

WEB EXTRA DOCUMENTS AT END OF STORY

Mario Barcia turned the television set off just after the Marlins won game five of the World Series. He'd been playing flag football with his friends that night, and he had a long day ahead of him. He was tired but happy. Barcia is a clerk at Miami-Dade County Family Court in downtown. His wife, Mercedes, works at the Department of Environmental Resources Management (DERM). The two often commuted together from their small one-story Cutler Ridge duplex, and the next morning they had to get up at 5:30 a.m. to beat the rush hour traffic.

The 25-year-old Barcia awoke that night to the sound of something banging. He reached to his nightstand and looked at his pager. The indigo digital display read 12:41 a.m. The banging continued, but he couldn't tell if it was coming from the back or the front of the house, and he didn't hear any voices. He was groggy, startled, and when he saw lights dancing around his back yard through his bedroom window, he became afraid. Growing up in Miami had worn on Barcia's nerves. His home had been burglarized in August while he and his wife were at work. On two previous occasions, robbers had tried to force their way into homes where he was living. It was a pattern that had driven him to buy a gun, a Glock 40mm, the day after the August break-in. After seeing the lights in his back yard, he scrambled for a pair of shorts, grabbed the Glock that he kept on his nightstand, and told his wife, "Wake up. Wake up. Somebody's trying to break in." Mercedes barely lifted her head.

What happened next changed Barcia's life forever. He unlocked his bedroom door and walked down the hallway toward the front door. He was glancing to his right to see if someone was there when he caught sight of a light and two men on his back patio, to his left. Barcia approached the door, noticing that one of the men was wearing a yellow shirt. Barcia says Yellow Shirt was shaking the French doors that led into the living room with one hand and carrying what looked like a shotgun in the other. Barcia's eyes widened as he moved within inches of the doors. The light was shining in Barcia's face, but he knew Yellow Shirt and his partner were still there on the patio, trying to break into his house. Barcia was terrified. Without saying a word he raised his gun and fired several shots to his right to scare the men away.

Glass shattered. Then there was silence. Barcia didn't see anything, so he decided the move had worked. He took a few steps backward, released the clip from the Glock, and put both the gun and the clip on the dining room table next to him. (The gun has no safety, so Barcia likes to remove live rounds from the chamber.)

Then came the return fire.

Glass shattered all around him, a bullet grazed his shoulder, and Barcia reached for the Glock again. He quickly put the clip back in and shot back several times, now aiming where he thought the men might be.

After the ringing in his ears faded he heard screaming and chaos in his house from his wife and his tenants, and moaning in his back yard. The French doors were in shards. Barcia was covered in his own blood from the glass shattering over him. Bullets had torn through the walls and a hallway closet, piercing Mercedes's wedding dress and one of Barcia's suitcoats. Barcia held the gun tightly and stepped backward again. He reached the hallway where Mercedes appeared, frantic and crying. "Call 9-1-1!" he yelled to her. He was in shock. He paced the house, while a trembling Mercedes told the 911 operator that her husband had fired his gun out the window at some intruders. Seconds passed. Then Mercedes turned to her bloodied husband to give him some startling news: "The lady says that they think you shot a police officer."


Officer down!

In police jargon "315" means an officer needs immediate assistance. It's the highest alert, the DefCon 1 of police emergencies. In the early morning hours of October 24, "315" was streaming across the airwaves in Cutler Ridge.

"OFFICER DOWN! OFFICER DOWN! 3-15 in the back yard!" Sgt. David Dominguez yelled to police dispatch. "All units! We need everybody down here!"

"All units 3-15," the dispatcher repeated in a steady voice. "2-0-8 Terrace Southwest 119th Place. All units take a 3-15 to 2-0-8 Terrace 119th Place. Officer down."

The time was 12:43 a.m.

Dominguez had been there from the beginning. He, along with Ofcr. Thomas Wever, were on burglary detail that night -- sniffing around areas stricken by auto theft and car break-ins. At 12:33 a.m. the two were driving down SW 208th Street when they felt something strike their cruiser. Wever, who was driving, later testified that he saw something out of the corner of his eye before hearing a thud on the passenger side of the car. The two, who were dressed in civilian clothes, backed up and spotted a softball-size rock in the street. They drove around the block to SW 208 Terrace -- the block where Barcia lives -- parked their car and called for backup. "We're going to be checking some yards," one of them told the radio dispatcher at 12:34 a.m.

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