MIRAMAR, Fla. — Relatives of a UPS driver killed after robbery suspects took him hostage and led police on a wild chase across South Florida questioned Friday why officers had to unleash a torrent of gunfire when the truck got stuck in rush hour traffic.
Both suspects were killed along with the driver and another motorist, who was waiting at a busy intersection when officers ran up and opened fire from behind the cars of innocent bystanders.
The chase and the final shootout were broadcast live on television, including the moment when one of the men tumbled out of the truck, mortally wounded.
The UPS driver was identified by family members as Frank Ordonez, according to CBS Miami. He was a father to two girls. They are three and five years old, according to Ordonez's stepfather who spoke with CBS Miami.
“He was still a kid to us. He was a home body. He was a family man. He had a 3 and 5 year old daughter he’s leaving behind. He always had a smile, never lost his temper. He did everything for his daughters,” Joe Merino told CBS Miami.
“I saw on TV when he fell, and I knew it was him. I saw how they killed my brother,” Luis Ordonez told The Associated Press on Friday.
He said the “police were insane. Instead of talking to them, they just started shooting. I know they (the robbery suspects) were shooting back at them, but it was easy to just cover behind police cars. They could have just covered themselves.”
UPS tells CBS Miami he had been with the company for five years, but it was his first day driving the truck that the FBI says was hijacked Thursday by two armed men who robbed a Coral Gables jewelry store.
The suspects stole the UPS truck Ordonez was driving, took him hostage and sped away, Coral Gables police said.
The FBI says A bystander in a nearby car was also killed at the scene of the police shootout, after a chase that went 20 miles north to Miramar.
An FBI official says both robbers were shot and killed after firing at police.
News helicopters were following the chase and at least one showed the conclusion live, with one person falling out of the vehicle’s passenger side after several shots were fired. It was unclear if the shots were fired from inside the truck, from law enforcement who were moving in or some combination thereof. The fourth victim, in another car at the intersection, was “an innocent bystander,” Piro said.
“This is what dangerous people do to get away,” Coral Gables Police Chief Ed Hudak said during a news conference. “And this is what people will do to avoid capture.”
A total of 19 officers, from five different agencies, fired into the carjacked UPS truck, a senior law enforcement source told CBS4 News.
“Where was SWAT, where was the sniper, where was the hostage negotiator?” Merino told CBS Miami when asked about the way police handled the situation. “They disregard the hostage, they disregard the people around the scene, they went out there like the old west, they shot everybody."
Thor Eells, executive director of the National Tactical Officers Association, told The Associated Press the officers confronting the boxed-in UPS truck faced a tough situation. The robbers appeared to be firing at them, endangering not only Ordonez but the dozens of people in the surrounding cars. He said the officers did need to stop the suspects by containing them to the UPS truck and returning fire.
“We have a situation with one hostage and the two suspects -- what happens if one of them runs 10 feet and takes over a city bus with 50 riders? Now we have a situation that is 50 times worse,” Eells told the AP. He said if the truck had stopped in an isolated area, then officers could have pulled back and negotiated, but not in the middle of a crowded urban street.
“With all due empathy to the family, the officers had a responsibility not only to the safety of the hostage but everyone in proximity,” Eells said.
UPS spokesman David Graves said the company would cooperate with authorities.
“We are deeply saddened to learn a UPS service provider was a victim of this senseless act of violence,” Graves said in a statement. “We extend our condolences to the family and friends of our employee and the other innocent victims involved in this incident.”
“There’s no more Christmas here. There’s no more Christmas. Christmas is over for us. This is devastating,” said Merino
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