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Police Shooting Frenzy Raises Concerns

MIAMI (CBSMiami) - On December 10, more than two dozen police officers from across Miami Dade County converged on a blue Volvo that had crashed in the backyard of a townhouse on 65th Street just off 27th Avenue.

As the car was wedged helplessly between a light pole and a tree, nearly a minute passed before officers opened up – firing approximately 50 bullets at the car and the two unarmed men inside the vehicle.

The two men inside the car survived that initial volley of gunfire, according to witnesses, who said they could see the men moving inside the Volvo. Everything went quiet for nearly two minutes before the officers opened up a second time – unleashing an unrelenting torrent of bullets that lasted almost 25 seconds. By the time it was over, the two men inside the car were dead.

CBS4 News has learned a total of 23 officers fired a total of at least 377 rounds.

Bullets were sprayed everywhere. They hit the Volvo, other cars in the lot, fence posts and neighboring businesses. They blasted holes in a townhouse where a 12-year-old dove to the ground for cover and a four month old slept in his crib.

"It was like the Wild Wild West, man, crazy," said Anthony Vandiver, who barely made it through the back door of his home before the gunfire erupted. "Shooting just wild; shooting all over the place. Bullets could have come through the window. Anything could have happened man. They weren't thinking, they weren't thinking at all."

Earlier that night, the driver of the Volvo, Adrian Montesano, robbed a Walgreens at gunpoint, and then later shot Miami Dade Police Officer Saul Rodriguez in a nearby trailer park.

Montesano escaped in the officer's patrol car eventually dumping it at his grandmother's house in Hialeah - before fleeing in her blue Volvo

By 5 am every cop in South Florida was looking for that blue Volvo - intent on catching the man who had shot one of their own.

But what police didn't realize before they started shooting at the Volvo is there was a second man in the car - Corsini Valdes - who had committed no crime.

And in fact, as CBS4 News was the first to report, both men inside the Volvo were unarmed at the time police caught up with them. All of the gunfire came from police.

Montesano and Valdes were killed by the dozens of rounds that tore through their bodies.

But Montesano and Valdes weren't the only ones struck - two Miami Dade police officers were hit as well - caught in the crossfire. One officer was shot in the arm and the second was hit in the arm and grazed in the head. If the bullet had struck just a half an inch to the side the officer would have been killed.

The sound of the gunfire was deafening - literally deafening. Two Miami police officers sustained ruptured ear drums from the cacophony of shots.

CBS4 News has spent the last five months piecing together the events of that evening and the hunt for the blue Volvo. CBS4 News reviewed radio transmissions, analyzed video taken during the shooting, interviewed officials from the different agencies involved, and reviewed records related to the officers who fired their weapons.

The nature of the shooting suggests the officers lost sight of their own training and that the officers, caught up in the heat of the moment, failed to listen to their radios or coordinate their actions endangering not only their own lives but the lives of the public.

It is worth saying, none of this would have happened if Adrian Montesano had not made the decision to rob the Walgreens and shoot a police officer. None of those officers would have been in that backyard if it weren't for the actions of Montesano. But that does not absolve the officers of responsibility for their own conduct, as well.

Senior commanders admit they are very lucky more officers weren't seriously hurt or killed. Even more haunting is the danger the residents in the area faced. At the time of the shooting, parents were getting their kids ready for school and across the street men and women stood exposed on a Metrorail platform.

The shooting is being reviewed by both the State Attorney's Office and the Miami Dade Police Department.

While those reviews will likely take years to complete, what is clear is the Walgreens robbery and the shooting of Officer Rodriguez sent officers across the county into a state of frenzy.

No call is more harrowing for a police officer than a report of an officer being shot. By the time police determined the shooter was Montesano and broadcast a description of the Volvo, officers from a half dozen different departments flooded into the north side of the county.

Many of the officers just seemed to be racing through the streets, according to one supervisor on the scene

"I don't know what's going on here," the supervisor declared over the radio. "There are units running threes everywhere."

A Code 3 is when police cars are travelling with lights and sirens blaring. The supervisor finally ordered the patrol units to slow down unless they were actually chasing the car.

Dispatchers and supervisors repeatedly told officers Montesano was to be considered armed and dangerous. At 6:23 am police spotted the Volvo.

"I got the Volvo, he's going southbound on two seven avenue from 79 street," the officer said.

"It's going to be occupied by a white male, 5-11, 225 pounds, Adrian Montesano," the dispatcher affirmed. "Use caution. Subject is armed."

Unknown to the officers is that there was a second man in the car. It is still not known when Montesano picked up 50-year-old Corsini Valdes.

Montesano led police on a brief chase before busting through a fence and crashing into a tree and light pole. As officers raced in from different directions, there was a pause before that first burst of gunfire. When the shooting stops after several seconds, one of the supervisors on the scene tries to take control. He notes the car is stuck and isn't going anywhere.

"We need to establish that perimeter, I have not verified if the subject is down or not," he said.

Another supervisor tells officers to stay back. There is no need for any of them to get into harm's way at this point.

"We have the vehicle confined," he said. "The officers need to pay attention to the radios, they are not listening, okay, that's the inner perimeter - we're good."

A dispatcher replies: "Units pay attention. Please listen to your radios."

Now that the car is surrounded, the plan now is to bring in SRT - the special response team - and have them take over. But so many units have flooded the area, SRT commanders are complaining they can't reach the scene because the streets are blocked.

"Make sure the units are not in our way so we can pull in, and they're not blocking the whole road," the SRT commander said.

"Any units do not block SRT," a dispatcher

Inside his house, Anthony Vandiver, used the temporary quiet to race upstairs and check on his family. He said he looked out his bedroom window, which looked directly down onto the blue Volvo below. He said he could hear the police yelling at the men in the car.

"They were saying put your hands up, and the guys were still moving after they shot maybe 50, 60 times," Vandiver recalled. "And the guy tried to put his hands up. And as soon as he put his hands up, it erupted again. And that was it for them. That guy tried his best to give up."

Asked if he was certain the men in the car were trying to put their hands up, Vandiver replied: "I swear to God on everything I love, my kids my momma, everything, I seen it all."

We may never know which officer fired the first shot or why. Did he mistakenly think he saw a gun even though neither Montesano nor Valdes had a weapon? But what is clear - once one officer fired the others joined in.

But Montesano and Valdes weren't the only ones struck. Two Miami Dade police officers were hit as well, caught in the crossfire created when officers on three different sides of the Volvo began firing.

"Get all of the officers off to the side," shouted one supervisor, "we've got to get rescue in here. There are too many officers in here, back them up."

To avoid any more officers shot, dispatchers pass the order there is to be no more shooting

"Have all units stand down in that inner perimeter, hold it for SRT, let's give service to that officer that's injured right now," an officer declared. "Get out of the way, let fire rescue get in there and let SRT take that inner perimeter."

As the smoke cleared and the sun begins to rise officers dragged Montesano and Valdes's bodies from the car. Although he appears dead, they decide to transport Valdes to Jackson.

Slowly neighbors came out of their homes.

"The policemen that had on the black and white vests were out there laughing like it was so funny," said one of the neighbors, "because they got a free shot off them people. Shooting all them bullets like that, that don't make no sense."


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