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William D. Snyder, the Martin County sheriff, describes a police chase that began in Miami-Dade and ended in Martin County.
Authorities pursued a man they say exchanged gunfire with an officer in Miami-Dade, resulting in a four-county chase that whizzed past worried motorists, left several vehicles with blown-out tires and concluded early Saturday with a SWAT standoff that forced the suspect to surrender.
The suspect, Samal Hammond, 36, a Virginia native who lives in Miami, was fortunate that he peacefully stepped out of his van when the chase ended on Interstate 95 in Martin County, not giving SWAT members reason to use deadly force on him, said William D. Snyder, the Martin County sheriff.
“It did look like it was one of those classic situations we were afraid of where sometimes the suspect wants the police to kill them, and fortunately in this case, he came out [of the van] without us having to do that,” Snyder said.
Neither Hammond, the officer he reportedly fired at in Miami-Dade nor anyone else was hurt, Snyder said.
Hammond in Martin County was being charged with possession of a stolen vehicle and providing false information to a law enforcement officer, according to the Martin County Sheriff's Office. Hammond was expected to later be returned to Miami-Dade, where he would face charges that included fleeing police, the Sheriff's Office said.
The events began when police encountered a man with a woman who was on the ground screaming, Snyder said. The man drove off, but not before shots were exchanged between him and a police sergeant who responded there, Snyder said.
“And then the chase was on,” Snyder said. “The suspect came northbound on I-95, went through the rest of Dade County, Broward County, Palm Beach County and then here into Martin County, where we were able to use stop sticks and get the van to stop.”
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Officers from Broward and Palm Beach counties joined police from Miami-Dade as the chase headed northbound, Snyder said. “It was a lot of good cooperation,” he said.
One witness, Michael Roche, said he was startled when he looked in his rearview mirror while driving on the highway and saw police cruisers fast approaching behind him.
“A green minivan passed me, and then at least 30 cop cars passed me after that. I immediately got off the road,” Roche said. “It was intimidating when I saw all those cop cars in my rearview. I didn’t know what to think.”
Officers decided to use stop sticks to blow out the tires of the suspect’s van. But the ability of drivers to maneuver across multiple highway lanes at high speeds, coupled with the nighttime darkness, made stopping the van challenging, Snyder said. The stop sticks inadvertently blew out the tires of police cruisers and civilian vehicles, Snyder said.
“It’s hard to judge those stop sticks,” Snyder said.
When the tires of the van were blown out and the van stopped, Hammond stayed in the van for about an hour until SWAT team members persuaded him to turn himself in, Snyder said. A loudspeaker was used to talk to Hammond from a distance, Snyder said.
“We told him, ‘If you’ll give up, you’re not going to be hurt,’” the sheriff said. “We finally were able to persuade him to give up.”
Records show Hammond has had prior run-ins with police over his driver’s license.
Miramar police arrested him last year in a driving-while-license-revoked case, which led to him being sentenced to one year of community supervision, court and state records show.
Snyder said he did not have additional information about the events in Miami-Dade that led the pursuit to commence. He added that he didn’t know the relationship between Hammond and the woman who had been screaming on the ground.
In the aftermath of the chase, police were helping civilians whose vehicles were left with flat tires, so that they weren’t left “stranded” on the highway, Snyder said.