Miami's Christmas Crime Wave: Man Set On Fire, Jewelry Store Owner Shot, Bank Robbed

As the rest of the nation huddled up to some eggnog, crackling fires and repeat viewings of "It's A Wonderful Life," Miami baked under tropical skies and celebrated Christmas the best way we knew how: By going bananas with horrific crime sprees.

Between Christmas Eve and early Wednesday morning, all these things happened in the 305: A man was set on fire and brutally burned at a gas station, a North Miami jewelry store owner was shot and customers were terrorized and a sunglass-clad robber knocked over a bank in Aventura.

The crime wave started Christmas Eve inside the flea market at 13995 NW 7th Avenue, where several customers were checking jewelry inside a store. Five men burst in, their faces clad in hats and bandanas, and began spraying bullets around the store, hitting the owner and scattering customers to the ground.

The men smashed the jewelry cases, but amidst the chaos, apparently forgot to actually take any jewelry, the Miami Herald reports. Surveillance videos shows them returning moments later to stuff their bags with gold before running out the door.

The owner, whose name has not been released, is expected to survive. "It's a miracle no one else was injured or killed," Maj. Neal Cuevas, a spokesman for the North Miami Police Department, tells the Herald.

Less than 24 hours later, an even more horrific crime shook Miami. About half an hour before midnight on Christmas, 44-year-old Darrell Brackett pulled into the U-Gas at 4700 NW 27th Avenue in central Dade with his girlfriend.

The pair had just dropped off guests after a Christmas cookout at their home and needed gas to get home, the Herald reports.

Brackett paid for his gas, but before he could return to his van, someone doused him with gasoline and set him on fire. By the time an ambulance arrived, he'd suffered serious burns to 75 percent of his body. Police say they have no motive.

"This is a human being," Brackett's mother, Bridgett, tells the Herald. "This is not an animal."

A few hours later, early on Wednesday, another robbery hit in Aventura. Around 9:40 a.m., a man in a white hoodie, dark jeans and sunglasses entered the Mercantile Bank at 3001 Aventura Boulevard and demanded cash.

He walked out with an undisclosed amount, but not before surveillance cameras got a good picture of his face.

(Know anything about any of these Christmas crimes? Call Miami-Dade Crime Stoppers at 305-471-8477.)

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Tim Elfrink is a former investigative reporter and managing editor for Miami New Times. He has won the George Polk Award and was a finalist for the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting.
Contact: Tim Elfrink