A blazing gun battle erupted when the FBI closed in on suspected bank robbers today, leaving two agents and two suspects dead, five agents wounded and battered cars and spent ammunition littering a busy suburban intersection.
The hail of bullets and shotgun blasts went “on and on and on,” said one witness in Kendall, an unincorporated area south of Miami that is home to more than 100,000 people.
“I thought it was a drug deal that went bad, because that’s what everyone does down here,” said Duane Parker, 24, who said he saw the entire battle. “Then I thought it was a ‘Miami Vice’ episode, but then I saw the blood and dead guys and thought: ‘No way.’ ”
Victims’ names were withheld pending notification of relatives. It was the first time since 1979 that two FBI agents were killed in a single incident.
Radioed for Backup
After agents spotted the car they were looking for during surveillance, they radioed for backup, said Joseph V. Corless, special agent in charge of the Miami FBI.
“Apparently when they believed they had sufficient assistance, an attempt was made to pull this vehicle over. At that point a confrontation ensued, shots were fired,” Corless said.
Four FBI cars were wrecked during the fatal operation. One slammed into a building, another smashed into a tree alongside the suspect’s car, and two cars apparently hit each other. One of them had five holes, possibly from shotgun blasts.
Blood stained the street in two places where victims had fallen.
Dozens of agents and police swarmed to the middle-class neighborhood of shops and duplex homes after the gun battle at the busy intersection shortly after 9:30 a.m.
10-Minute Gun Battle
The FBI would not say whether any suspects got away, and Metro-Dade police officers at the scene said they did not know whether any other suspects were involved.
“All I heard was the shots. There must’ve been 100 rounds fired. They were shooting for 10 minutes,” said Mario Tejeiro, who was unloading a truck at an office complex near the scene.
“The gunfire was so close that you could smell it,” said Billie Holloway, a neighborhood resident. “People drove through the exchange of gunfire. People got out of the Farm Store (a convenience store) and drove through this. This is Miami. People are crazy.”
She said it appeared that two federal agents held up their fire because of people driving between them and their targets.
Agent in Critical Condition
One agent was in critical condition at Baptist Hospital, hospital spokeswoman Barbara Moore said. She said another agent was also brought to the hospital, but she had no further information.
Tom Jones, spokesman for South Miami Hospital, said a 32-year-old agent was undergoing surgery there for a broken arm. He said the agent also had some shotgun pellets in his head, but those wounds weren’t serious. The agent was in fair condition, Jones said.
The other two agents’ wounds were superficial, Corless said.
The last time two agents were killed in a single 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 after being wounded by a dying agent.
Agents this morning were doing surveillance when they spotted a stolen black Monte Carlo with a license plate matching the number of one they suspected of being used in recent Miami-area armored car and bank holdups, officials said.
“In the holdups, the group would wait for the guards and just shoot them. They were ruthless,” said Al Carballosa, Metro-Dade police spokesman.