Four Die, Five Wounded In Miami FBI Shootout
MIAMI (AP) _ The bloodiest shootout in FBI history, a barrage of shotgun blasts and handgun bullets, killed two agents and two robbery suspects known for coming out shooting, and left five agents wounded, authorities say.
″This is just a devastating day for the FBI in Miami. This is the first time we’ve had as many agents killed and wounded in one particular incident,″ Joseph V. Corless, head of the Miami FBI office, said Friday.
The gunbattle broke out in a quiet, middle-class neighborhood in unincorporated Dade County south of Miami after the agents radioed for help as they spotted a car believed stolen by suspects in several bank robberies and armored car holdups, Corless said.
″Apparently when they believed they had sufficient assistance, an attempt was made to pull this vehicle over,″ he said. ″At that point, a confrontation ensued, shots were fired.″
At least one agent was hit as he struggled to put on a bulletproof vest, witnesses said.
After the shootout, ″One of the detectives ... started kicking the fat guy in the head, kicked him three or four times just out of frustration and another officer pulled him away,″ said witness Michael Budwig.
The slain agents were identified as Benjamin T. Grogan, 53, a 25-year veteran, and Jerry Dove, 30, an agent since 1982. It was the first time since 1979 that two FBI agents were killed in one incident, and the most casualties in a single action in the agency’s 79-year history.
″I thought it was a drug deal that went bad, because that’s what everyone does down here,″ said Duane Parker, 24. ″Then I thought it was a ‘Miami Vice’ episode, but then I saw the blood and dead guys and thought: ’No way.‴
The hail of bullets and shotgun blasts behind the Suniland Shopping Center went ″on and on and on,″ said one witness. Another estimated it lasted 10 minutes.
Other witnesses said the FBI agents halted their gunfire when drivers, unaware of what was happening, drove through the confrontation.
″Those idiots kept going on through,″ said Billie Holloway.″But the agents knew they were civilians and halted their gunfire.″
FBI Director William H. Webster identified the dead suspects as Michael Platt, 32, and William R. Matix. Webster said at a Washington news conference that the suspects ″were two particularly violent individuals who did not shoot out of excitement or fear but ... it was part of their modus operandi.″
The two were the only suspects in the shootout, authorities said.
He said the FBI had no other information about the pair but that they were armed with ″at least one automatic weapon capable of firing at least 30 rounds in a single container and one shotgun that appears to have been modified to carry additional shells.″
The FBI agents had been using handguns and one shotgun, Webster said.
Asked about other incidents involving these suspects, Webster said the owner of a car used in one of the robberies has disappeared and is believed to be dead.
WPLG-TV reported that the two were suspects in a rash of brutal attacks on people who drove alone into the Everglades. One man was shot several times and left for dead. Several others disappeared, but autos linked to them were used in a series of bank robberies and armored car attacks here.
The robbers killed one armored-car guard during a robbery, also firing without warning, WPLG reported.
For nearly four hours after Friday’s shootout, the bodies of the agents and suspects lay on the sidewalk beside four cars that crashed during the incident. One of the cars had five holes, possibly from shotgun blasts. A fifth car crashed into a bulding across the street.
Agents Gordon McNeill, 43, and John Hanlon, 48, were in serious but stable condition today with gunshot wounds at Baptist Hospital, a hospital nursing supervisor said. Edmundo Mireles, 33, was in fair and stable condition at South Miami Hospital.
Two other agents, Richard Manauzzi, 43, and Gilbert Orrantia, 27, were treated and released Friday from Jackson Memorial Hospital.
Prior to Friday’s shootout, 27 FBI agents were killed in confrontations while on duty since 1908 when the agency was founded, Corless added.
The last time two agents were killed in one incident was in August 1979, when a man broke into the FBI office in El Centro, Calif., and began shooting, FBI spokesman Jack French said in Washington. The man killed himself.