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Family seeks justice in 2019 shootout that left South Florida UPS driver, motorist dead

Justice sought in 2019 shootout killing of UPS driver
Justice sought in 2019 shootout killing of UPS driver 02:47

MIAMI - The family of a UPS driver who was killed in a shootout in 2019 on a busy South Florida highway is speaking out after four Miami-Dade police officers were indicted in the killing of twenty-seven-year-old Frank Ordonez and another driver.

Miami-Dade police officers Rodolfo Mirabal, 39, Jose Mateo, 32, Richard Santiesteban, 33, and Leslie Lee, 57, were all indicted of manslaughter with a firearm for the deaths of Ordonez and Richard Cutshaw, a 70-year-old motorist who was caught in the crossfire. While Mateo, Santiesteban and Lee face only one count of manslaughter, Mirabal faces two counts.

All four were released on their recognizance per a judge's court order, the Broward SAO stated. The maximum possible penalty under Florida law is up to 30 years in state prison, though a first-time offender could face a significantly lesser penalty.

Frank Ordonez's family seeks justice

CBS News Miami spoke with Ordonez's family members.

"After 4 years we have been patient and the case has been heard. Now the indictments are issued and we will follow the process. There is a lot of negligence there. Everyone saw it. The whole country and the whole city saw the negligence," Joe Merino, Ordonez's stepfather, said. "I think if they had waited for SWAT to show up and they were 5 minutes away, a lot of things could have been different."

Ordonez's mother, Luc Apolinario, said "I feel terrible. In my heart, I want justice. Every day is the same movie. I remember him Avery day in my life. Every day."

Ordonez's sister, Genevie Merino said "He was my best friend. They went too far. I see them as monsters. That is my opinion. They didn't see him as a human being."

No date for a future hearing was set for the officers and no attorney information was available.

On the investigation

After hearing evidence presented over several months, a Broward grand jury issued indictments and charged the officers on June 6, the Broward SAO stated. They all surrendered at the Broward County Main Jail on Friday and Saturday, and their legal paperwork was processed.  

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement completed its investigation and turned its findings over to the Broward SAO before the grand jury was empaneled earlier this year and reviewed the evidence and heard testimony.

"Deciding whether to use deadly force is among the most serious and consequential decisions a police officer can make," Broward State Attorney Harold F. Pryor said in the statement. "We understand that these decisions are often made during intense and uncertain circumstances."

"The Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Federal Bureau of Investigation conducted an extensive investigation of the officers involved in the shootings and their circumstances," he continued. "Given the enormity of the gunfire in this incident at an extremely busy intersection packed with civilian motorists and pedestrians, we presented these agencies' findings to the grand jury."

South Florida PBA on the indictments

The South Florida Police Benevolent Association criticized the Broward County State Attorney's Office for seeking the grand jury indictment of the Miami-Dade County officers.  

"We're extremely disappointed that after almost five years, these officers are finding themselves indicted for something they had seconds to decide. It sends a chilling effect to officers in Broward County," union president Steadman Stahl said in a statement. "As the process moves forward, we will monitor it and defend our officers."

South Florida PBA President Steadman Stahl said of the indictments, "This is shocking and something we did not expect. I am not sure police could show more restraint. If someone is shooting at you, you can not talk to them. You can not de-escalate the situation." 

"They are shooting at you and the officers had no choice but to return fire in this situation. There were also other people who could have been taken hostage. There was a restaurant right across the street and if more people got out of their cars they could have been taken hostage. These two devils put this in play when they went in to that jewelry store and they went out and started shooting at people." 

The 2019 Miramar shootout

The tragedy began when 41-year-old cousins Lamar Alexander and Ronnie Jerome Hill robbed the Regent Jewelers store in the Miami suburb of Coral Gables. Police said shots were being fired inside the store when officers arrived, summoned by a silent alarm. A store worker was hit in the head by a ricocheting bullet.

The robbers fled into a nearby neighborhood and hijacked Ordonez, who was delivering packages.

They led officers from multiple agencies on a long chase into southern Broward County during rush-hour traffic, running red lights and narrowly avoiding crashes. The chase attracted television news helicopters, which began broadcasting it live nationally.

A rear door of the UPS van was partly open, as well as the driver and passenger-side doors, enabling gunfire along the way. The van finally stopped in a middle lane at a busy intersection in Miramar, caught behind a wall of vehicles waiting for the light to turn green.

Witnesses told The Associated Press then that gunfire suddenly erupted as officers ran between cars toward the van. Ordonez, Alexander and Hill were killed inside the van. Cutshaw was fatally struck by a stray bullet as he drove nearby. Investigators have not said if Ordonez and Cutshaw were shot by police, the robbers or both.

Policing experts told the AP in 2019 that the officers were in a tough spot. It appeared the robbers were firing from the van, endangering the officers, Ordonez, nearby drivers and their passengers. The officers needed to contain the robbers in the van so that they couldn't run to another vehicle and take new hostages, the experts said.

It is highly unusual for Florida law enforcement officers to be charged for an on-duty killing — it has only happened three times in the last 40 years. Even then, only one of those officers has been convicted.

Three police officers in the Panhandle town of Crestview are awaiting trial on manslaughter charges for the 2021 death of Calvin Wilks Jr., who died after they allegedly jolted him with a stun gun. Those officers, who have pleaded not guilty, are awaiting trial.

Former Palm Beach Gardens officer Nouman Raja is serving a 25-year prison sentence after being convicted of manslaughter and attempted murder for the 2015 shooting of Corey Jones, whose SUV had broken down on an interstate highway off-ramp. Raja, working undercover and in plain clothes, never identified himself as a police officer when he approached Jones and began yelling at him, an audio recording showed. Jones, fearing he was being robbed, pulled his licensed handgun and tried to flee. Raja pursued and killed him, trial testimony showed.

A Broward sheriff's deputy was charged with manslaughter for the 2014 fatal shooting of a man who was carrying an air rifle he had just purchased. Deputies yelled at Jermaine McBean, who spun around and was shot by Deputy Peter Peraza. A judge later threw out the manslaughter charge.

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