An armed drugstore robbery and subsequent manhunt left three officers shot and two people dead in Northwest Miami-Dade on Tuesday.
Three Miami-Dade officers struck by gunfire — one in the stomach, two in their arms — were rushed to Jackson Memorial Hospital. They all are expected to survive, as are two officers from Miami and one from Hialeah who suffered other injuries in the violent confrontation that spanned multiple scenes and snarled rush-hour traffic.
The deadly series of events began before dawn, when 27-year-old Adrian Montesano tried to rob a Walgreens near Northwest 27th Avenue and West Flagler Street in Little Havana, according to multiple law enforcement sources and a man who said he was a friend of Montesano’s.
A Miami police union released a security camera image showing Montesano holding a woman at gunpoint in the store, his left forearm around her neck and his right hand holding a handgun to her head.
When police caught up with Montesano near Northwest 27th Avenue and 22nd Street, he allegedly shot in the abdomen an officer who tried to arrest him. Montesano ditched his pickup truck emblazoned with his air-conditioning company's logo, taking the Miami-Dade officer's gun and speeding off in the officer's patrol car, police said.
Police found the injured officer's squad car abandoned in Hialeah about 5:30 a.m. Soon after, Hialeah police spotted Montesano and another person in a blue Volvo near East Sixth Street and 10th Avenue.
Officers pursued the Volvo to Northwest 27th Avenue and 65th Street, where it crashed, wedged between a tree and a utility pole.
As police moved in, officers from multiple departments exchanged gunfire with the people who were in the car. Both of them died, police said. It's unclear who Montesano was with or how they got caught up in the incident.
Dozens of officers from several departments congregated at Ryder Trauma Center on Tuesday to support their injured colleagues. The two officers shot in the arms were treated and released; the third was recovering from surgery.
“He’s in good shape and is going to recover. Thank God it was not a life-sustaining organ that was penetrated,” Miami-Dade Police Director J.D. Patterson said of the officer shot in the abdomen, who several law enforcement sources identified as Saul Rodriguez.
Rodriguez also fell under gunfire from a suspect in a 2011 incident in Northwest Miami-Dade. He was not injured, but his partner was shot in the chest area but survived thanks to a bulletproof vest.
Montesano's record shows one previous run-in with the law: a 2007 arrest in Miami Beach after he cut a fence and drove his truck onto the sand at the 79th Street beach. The truck got stuck, and Montesano was using beach signs to try and create traction for his tires, according to an arrest report.
When Miami Beach officers approached him, Montesano cursed and claimed he had a cousin who was in law enforcement, the report noted. He chuckled when officers ordered him to keep his hands in their sight.
"Defendant was verbally abusive," officers wrote.
Montesano went to Hialeah-Miami Lakes Senior High and was working as an A/C repairman, according to a man at the final shooting scene who declined to give his name. Calling himself a friend of Montesano, the man spoke briefly with reporters before detectives asked to speak with him in private.
Montesano had fallen in with the wrong crowd and had gotten into drugs, the friend said, adding that he tried to rob the Walgreens because he needed money.
“He had an addiction,” Montesano’s friend said. “He was good, he was bad. The last time I spoke to him he was good, you know, he was doing his job, working, what he loved to do. I guess he got with the bad people again and it caused him to do all this.”
Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez spoke with two of the injured county officers at the hospital. He said they were holding up well and said investigators were still putting together the pieces of a bizarre, violent puzzle.
“There seem to be more brazen attacks by people who aren’t right,” Gimenez said. “We need to find out what’s going on. It appears to be ... illogical.”