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Four Miami-Dade police officers indicted for 2019 shootout that left UPS driver and passerby dead

4 indicted Miami-Dade Police officers in UPS shooting have surrendered
4 indicted Miami-Dade Police officers in UPS shooting have surrendered 00:32

Four Florida police officers have been indicted on manslaughter charges in connection with a 2019 shootout on a busy street that left a UPS driver, the two robbers who hijacked him and a nearby driver dead, the Broward County State Attorney's Office announced Saturday night.

Frank Ordonez, the UPS driver killed in the shootout between police and the armed robbers who took him hostage. (Source: Facebook)

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.

According to Saturday's press release, officers Rodolfo Mirabal, 39, Jose Mateo, 32, Richard Santiesteban, 33, and Leslie Lee, 57, were all indicted on the charge of manslaughter with a firearm for the deaths of Frank Ordonez, the 27-year-old kidnapped UPS driver, 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.

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."

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."

The Miami-Dade Police Department said it would have a statement later Tuesday.

The indictment was first reported by the Miami Herald.

The 2019 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 the Fort Lauderdale suburb of 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.

CBS News Miami contributed to this report.

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