investigators

New Evidence Appears to Show Suspect Fired First Shot At End of Police Chase

NBC 6 Investigator Tony Pipitone obtained new video of the two-county chase that ended in a barrage of gunfire that took the lives of two innocent people.

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Aerial videos showed from afar the gunfire that erupted after a carjacked UPS truck came to a stop on Miramar Parkway last week.

Several cellphone videos captured the sounds of gunfire that killed two armed robbers, their hostage and an innocent bystander.

But one element has so far been missing from the public record of the deadly encounter: combined video and audio evidence that appears to show when and by whom the first shot was fired.

After an NBC 6 viewer provided video she took while sitting two car lengths behind the truck, movements of police could be synced between her video and aerial video, so a viewer can see and hear what was happening when the first shot was heard.

NBC 6 Investigators showed the combined video to two experts: a lawyer who has sued police and a retired high-ranking law enforcement officer. Both agreed it appears the first shot was fired from one of the armed robbers, leaning out of the passenger door of the UPS truck and directing his fire toward at least two police officers, at least one of whom almost immediately returned fire.

"It looked pretty clearly to me like the armed robber fired the first shot from inside the truck," said Michael Feiler, a Miami attorney, noting it was clear to him the use of deadly force was justified – at least at first.

"It's over right then," Feiler said, as he watched the robber raise a firearm toward police. "That's when officers are going to open fire no matter what."

Captivating cellphone video from a Telemundo 51/NBC 6 photographer shows the suspects of a robbery and dozens of police officers engaging in a shootout at the end of an erratic chase Thursday in Miramar.

Former Broward Sheriff's Col. Jack Dale watched the same video and said, "based on the way that the sound is paired up, it looks like the passenger side suspect fires first at the officers…almost immediately afterwards, it appears the officers or deputies returned fire."

But it was the volume and nature of that subsequent police fire that raised questions in both experts' minds.

For Feiler, "my question would be how it got to that point in the first place… my concern in looking at the big picture in the case is whether there could've been something that terminated the chase earlier and created a more controlled situation that didn't place as many bystanders at risk."

Dale said more facts are needed, but questioned whether all officers opened fire without acquiring a clear target, as they are trained to do.

A police source said 19 officers opened fire during last week’s shootout in Miramar. NBC 6’s Ari Odzer reports.

"They need to be responsible for their rounds," Dale said. "They have to take everything into account. They have a crowded intersection, we see video with pedestrians in the area, and they have to be very careful in their shots." He added that is not an easy thing to do when being shot at.

"It's difficult to get into the minds of officers," Dale said. "They see a bad guy, two suspects, who obviously don't want to be captured, they fired rounds at the officers in the pursuit, so it has to be a concern that if these bad guys make it to other vehicles in the area, they could take more hostages, enter a more crowded area, carjack another vehicle and it doesn't allow them the luxury of sitting way back behind a piece of cover and, in this case, their hands are forced basically."

As for lessons learned, Feiler said, "if it says anything, I think it says there's a need for better training and more vigilance about avoiding problems from developing, rather than letting things happen then going back and forth pointing fingers afterward."

Several police agencies were involved in the incident and none are providing details about the officer's actions while the case is being investigated by the FBI, with assistance from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

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