At least eight police officers, their guns drawn, moved in on a white Range Rover. Nine patrol cars blocked the road at the corner of Fourth Street and Alton Road in Miami Beach. Another cop restrained a police dog. The driver had been handcuffed after getting out of the vehicle with his arms over his head, and a woman in the front seat had exited peacefully.
Over a loudspeaker, police ordered the other occupants to step out. Problem is, all of those guns were aimed at two little kids, who looked about 2 and 4 years old, says the man who provided the video.
The driver's crime: He had driven away after being involved in what sounds like a fender-bender.
So were all those guns really necessary?
"That is the appropriate response," says Ernesto Rodriguez, public information officer for the Miami Beach Police Department.
Here's the backstory. Around 6:30 p.m. Sunday, someone called police about a minor crash inside a parking garage at 207 Seventh St. According to a police report, the caller told officers a white Range Rover had cut in front of his car and hit his front bumper.
The driver of the Range Rover, later identified as 29-year-old Angelo Matthews, had pulled over outside the parking garage and checked his car for damage.
Before Matthews got back inside, the other driver told police, the driver saw him grab a silver handgun, according to a police report. Then Matthews drove away.
Police and court records show that Matthews, a Miramar resident, has a concealed weapons permit and no criminal record. He's previously been charged with traffic infractions, as well as misdemeanor assault and marijuana and drug paraphernalia possession in Broward and Miami-Dade. (In the pot and assault cases, charges were either not prosecuted or adjudication was withheld.) He couldn't be reached for comment.
Police caught up with the Range Rover at Fourth Street and Alton Road — right across from the Icon, where some friends were playing a board game on a 15th-floor balcony. One of them started recording while he and his friends tried to figure out what was going on. "What the hell did this guy do?" someone asks in the background of the video.
The video shows Matthews, who is black, and a woman leaving the vehicle. When the officers approach, they pull guns and crouch in a way that must have scared the hell out of the children. After they reach the vehicle, they open its doors, reach inside, and pull out the two little kids.
You can't hear it in the video provided to New Times, but the man who filmed it says the woman was yelling, "No, no, no, they're my babies in the back seat!"
In the video, the group of friends narrates much of the incident: "Oh my God, a kid?" someone says before concluding, "That happened so quick." The man who filmed it, who wanted to remain anonymous, says the friends figured it was another episode of spring break madness in Miami Beach. He assumed the driver might have either stolen the car or been involved in dealing drugs.
The video shows that after finding the children in the SUV, the officers carry them to the woman. Later they arrested Matthews for leaving the scene of an accident, driving with a suspended license, and possession of less than 20 grams of marijuana.
A semiautomatic pistol was found under the driver's seat, according to a police report. Rodriguez says police had to be careful. It was a felony stop because a gun was involved, he says. "We're responding where a possible firearm was involved without knowing what the threats inside may have been," he says.
Keep Miami New Times Free... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Miami with no paywalls.