It what appears set to become a series of shots heard round the world, four people ended up dead at the hands of police after a hijacked UPS truck led law enforcement on an erratic chase in Miramar, Florida.
The deceased include two suspects, a UPS driver who has been identified as Frank Ordonez, as well as an innocent bystander.
On Thursday, an armed robbery at Regent Jewelers in Coral Gables went awry when the silent alarm was triggered at approximately 4:15 pm. At least one woman was hurt during the robbery that soon escalated to the hijacking of a nearby UPS truck, according to Coral Gables Police Chief Edward J. Hudak Jr.
Officials say the two robbery suspects hijacked the truck, taking the driver hostage, before fleeing.
Less than a minute later, police were alerted to shots having been fired across the street at Coral Gables City Hall, with one bullet striking the building, allegedly originating from the fleeing UPS truck, FBI Special Agent in Charge George Piro in charge of the Miami field office, said during a Thursday night briefing. The building went into lockdown after the shooting.
According to officials, the truck then led police on a long chase in which it drove over curbs, made U-turns, and drove erratically while weaving around other vehicles, including those belonging to law enforcement. Dozens of officers were in pursuit during the ordeal that saw the UPS truck speeding through congested streets and intersections. CNN reports that “at one point, the line of emergency vehicles trailing the truck stretched for about half a mile.”
By the time the chase ended, more than 40 emergency vehicles had responded to the incident. Disturbing footage shows police exiting their vehicles and approaching the UPS truck on foot as it came to a stop in heavy traffic. Rather than treat the incident as a hostage situation, police drew their weapons and used bystanders’ vehicles as cover.
As seen in live aerial footage from WSVN, the Ordonez, who according to his brother was covering the route for another driver, left the steering wheel before shots appeared to be fired inside the truck at 5:35 p.m.
TENSE exchange of gunfire between police and robbery suspects in Miramar / Flamingo Road area after chase. (Vid: @wsvn)
According to Piro, both suspects as well as two innocent bystanders were killed during the ordeal. “Unfortunately the suspects are now deceased, but two additional innocent civilians were also deceased,” the agent explained during Thursday night’s press briefing.
“It’s very early in the investigative process, there are a lot of questions that are still unanswered,” he continued.
It remains unknown whether the first shots came from police or those inside the UPS truck and whether or not the driver and bystander were killed by police fire.
And now, family members of Frank Ordonez are speaking out.
Joe Merino, Ordonez’s stepfather, told Local 10 News:
“They murdered him. I hope you can understand that and how I feel because it could have been prevented.”
The driver’s brother, Roy Ordonez, told CNN his brother was an “outgoing and happy” father of two 3 and 6-year-old girls. The 27-year-old enjoyed fishing, playing basketball and video games, and “most of all,” his brother said, “what Frank really liked to do is spend time with his daughters.”
Merino, who called the scene “a war zone,” is lashing out at police and questioning their tactics:
“I have common sense, like we all do, and it shows me, where’s the protocol? Where was protocol? Where was SWAT? Where was the hostage negotiator? Where was the sniper? They shot him dead!”
The negligence, the irresponsibility, the lack of life, the lack of concern. The disregard for life for the victim.”
Miami-Dade Police Director Juan Perez responded to Merino moments later, saying: