Miami Beach Police's New Deputy Chief Once Survived a Miami Vice-Style Shootout

Maj. Richard Clements survived a real-life Miami Vice-style shootout in Miami Beach.
Maj. Richard Clements survived a real-life Miami Vice-style shootout in Miami Beach.
Photos: via Miami Beach Police Department/ Daniel Piraira via Flickr CC

The South Beach dinner crowd was still buzzing with the news that O.J. Simpson had been acquitted of murder charges when Richard Clements got the call about a man flashing a gun near 16th Street and Washington Avenue.  It was October 3, 1995, and within minutes, Clements would find himself locked into a life-and-death struggle on the streets of South Beach.

This week, Clements was named the deputy chief of the Miami Beach Police Department. The force's new second-in-command is one of the few in the department to have been wounded in the line of duty. Even 21 years later, he still recalls that moment in vivid clarity.

"In situations like that, you always revert back to your training," he says.

The gunfight began with 911 calls just after 7 p.m. reporting an armed man near 16th Street and Washington Avenue. South Beach was a very different place in 1995 — years removed from the darkest days of the Cocaine Cowboys era but still racked with far more violent crime than today. 

When a canvass of the area turned up no signs of the reported man, Clements and Sgt. Charles London slowly worked their way south on Ocean Drive, thinking perhaps they might spot the suspect on the busy street.

Sometime after 8 p.m., as Clements steered his cruiser right onto Fifth Street from Ocean Drive, he spotted the suspect near Washington Avenue. He pulled over and motioned for the man to approach.

Instead, the man — 34-year-old Marvin Douglas Martin — yanked out a .38-caliber revolver. Before Clements could react, Martin fired — striking the cop once in the left thigh, just near his femur.

As Martin tried to fire again, his gun jammed. Clements, bleeding heavily from his leg, pulled out his 9mm Sig Sauer and struck Martin once in the back.

Nearby diners eating on the sidewalk outside Sport Cafe at 538 Washington Ave. "ducked under tables [as] others ran for the door and still others sat and watched," the Miami Herald reported at the time.

Clements' partner, Sergeant London, was unarmed and on light duty because of a skydiving injury. But as the bullets rang out, he was able to jump out of the police car, pick up Clements' gun, and run across the street toward the suspect.

"[London] did not fire, but only kicked the suspect's gun out of his hand," the Herald reported.

Martin was arrested and survived the gunshot wound to his back. He was later found guilty of attempted second-degree murder and other charges and sentenced to 30 years in prison.

Clements, meanwhile, fully recovered. He went on to tackle a multitude of assignments within the department, including a 16-year stint on MBPD's SWAT team.  His tenure was mostly controversy-free, although he was one of five Miami Beach officers who were cleared by a federal jury of violating the civil rights of a security guard during a 1991 drug bust.

Most recently, he was commanding officer of the Investigations and Support Division, where he "oversaw all training, technical support, recruitment and hiring, criminal investigations, narcotics and vice operations, intelligence gathering, victim services and property, and evidence and records management," according to the department.

This week, Chief Daniel Oates named the 53-year-old veteran as his deputy, replacing Dep. Chief Lauretta Hill, who leaves in August to return to her home state of Texas after only two years as Oates' second-in-command.

Clements will be sworn in at a ceremony before the Miami Beach City Commission at 5 p.m. today.

Clements, a Miami Sunset Senior High graduate whose father and brother are both retired Miami Beach cops, says his promotion wasn't all that unexpected.

"I've always set my sights high," he says.

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