The owner of a Pembroke Pines barbershop says he came face-to-face with the Turnpike gunman shortly before the suspect shot two South Florida officers during afternoon rush hour in Hollywood.
Dwight Francis says there were about 10 employees and customers inside Maxim Cuts at 1460 S. Palm Avenue around 2:40 p.m. Thursday when the armed suspect barged in and demanded cash.
"He said 'Where the money at?'" Francis said Friday, while recounting the frightening encounter. "I couldn't even sleep last night."
Francis said the suspect grabbed money from the cash register and then cornered him in the store.
"I tried to think fast," Francis said. He said he was cornered by the suspect but somehow got away and ran to a nearby gas station to alert police.
Francis said a client who is a security guard happened to be inside getting his haircut when the robbery happened. He said the man opened fire on the suspect as he tried to flee the scene in a minivan, which was found riddled with bullet holes nearby.
Authorities say the suspect carjacked a second car near the barbershop, a G-36 Infiniti, which he drove onto the Turnpike and crashed into another car near the Hollywood Boulevard exit.
Officials believe that after the crash, he started walking on the Turnpike looking for another car to help him get away.
Key Biscayne Officer Nelia Real, a 16-year veteran of the Key Biscayne department, was off duty and on her way home when she stopped to help with what she believed was just a car crash, authorities said.
The suspect opened fire on Real and an Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent who had also responded to the crash.
Real was shot in the neck and rushed to Memorial Regional Hospital where she was sedated. The ICE agent was also hospitalized with non-life threatening injuries.
Authorities say the suspect turned the gun on himself. The FBI on Friday released photos of the suspect taken during the barbershop robbery. They're asking for the public's help in identifying the suspect, and are asking anyone with information to contact them at 305-944-9101.
Francis, who's owned the barbershop for the past year, said he's still shaken up by the incident but said it could have been worse.
"I feel sorry for the police officers that got shot," he said.
Meanwhile, Archie Grant, a real estate agent whose office is two doors down from the barber shop, said he heard shots.
"I immediately came to the front because I had customers and wanted to make sure they were OK. So, then I came to door. The moment I saw the gentleman with a gun I closed my door and told everyone to go in the back because I had no clue what was going on," he said.