Update: This story has been updated with information about the identities of the alleged armed robbers and the bystander who was killed.
Serious questions remain following the bloody shootout yesterday on Miramar Parkway that claimed the lives of two suspected armed robbers, a UPS driver, and an innocent bystander near a traffic-jammed intersection. The FBI has joined police officials from various local departments to help investigate what has quickly become South Florida's most dramatic police chase in recent memory, having played out almost entirely on TV broadcast across the nation.
For the time being, the most information law enforcement officials have offered is a general timeline and the names of the alleged suspects. The incident began Thursday around 4:15 p.m., when two armed suspects tried to rob Regent Jewelers on Miracle Mile near LeJeune Road in Coral Gables. The Miami Herald reported the suspects posed as U.S. postal workers and were buzzed into the store. One of the robbers fired into the floor, sources told the Herald, and the bullet ricocheted, striking a female employee in the forehead. She survived. The jewelry store owner shot at the suspects while they fled.
What came next was a breakneck, 20-mile chase up I-75. The pursuit came to a tragic end on Miramar Parkway near Flamingo Road, where police say the armed robbers opened fire in the middle of rush-hour traffic. When the hail of bullets cleared, both robbers were dead — and so were 27-year-old UPS driver Frank Ordonez and an innocent bystander.
Ordonez's stepfather told NBC 6 that he and other family members watched the pursuit on television but didn't know Ordonez was in the truck. A co-worker told CBS 4 that Ordonez had recently finished training to be a driver and that yesterday was his first day out on his own. His brother told the outlet that Ordonez had worked for UPS for five years.
Ordonez's brother, Roy Ordonez, created a GoFundMe page to collect money for funeral costs, a lawyer, and the schooling of the driver's two young daughters. A UPS driver in New York also set up a GoFundMe page for Ordonez.
Law enforcement has yet to name the bystander who was killed, but TV outlets reported that neighbors identified him as Pembroke Pines resident Richard Cutshaw.
Who were the shooters?
The FBI this afternoon identified the alleged robbers as Lamar Alexander and Ronnie Jerome Hill, both age 41.
Florida Department of Corrections records show both men were released from prison in 2017. Alexander was convicted of armed robbery in Lee County and sentenced to ten years in prison in 2009. Hill has a history of robbery and burglary in Miami-Dade and Palm Beach Counties, records show. He most recently served a year in prison for several burglaries before his February 2017 release.
No specifics have been released about the crime, including the weapons the robbers used and whether they stole anything from the jewelry store. Federal agents have asked the public for any tips about the robbery.
Whose gunfire led to the deaths?
The FBI identifies the two deceased individuals responsible for yesterday's jewelry store robbery, carjacking/kidnapping and shootings as Lamar Alexander, 41, and Ronnie Jerome Hill, 41, both of Miami-Dade County. If anyone has information about these crimes, call 1-855-352-7233— FBI Miami (@FBIMiamiFL) December 6, 2019
For the time being, it's unclear whether direct fire from police, the armed robbers, or a ricocheted bullet killed Ordonez and the bystander. That information could have real implications for any investigation into whether police properly used force to neutralize the armed robbers.
Were police too quick to pull the trigger?
The carnage that unfolded on Miramar Parkway is a nightmare scenario for any law enforcement official: armed suspects firing in an open area surrounded by countless people trapped in their vehicles. The president of Miami-Dade's police union claims at least 11 officers opened fire on the UPS truck in response to the robbers' "firing first," according to a report by the Herald. Time will tell the exact sequence of events that led to the exchange of bullets, but it's reasonable to say the confrontation could have easily ended in more casualties. Still, the question remains whether police handled the situation appropriately.
"For this to happen, I think, it was just unnecessary," Ordonez's stepfather, Joe Merino, told NBC News. "Other tactics should have been applied, and they weren't, so when I say the word 'devastated,' it's an understatement."