1 dead, officer stabbed in police-involved shooting in South Beach

MIAMI (WSVN) - A police officer is recovering at the hospital and a knife-wielding man has died after a tense confrontation in the heart of South Beach led to the officer’s stabbing and ended with law enforcers opening fire on the assailant, police said.

Miami Beach Police Officer Ricardo Castillo remains at at Jackson Memorial Hospital Monday morning, when members of SWAT were seen arriving at the hospital to visit  the officer.

The officer’s ordeal began when he and other units from Miami Beach Police and Fire Rescue responded to the sighting of a man brandishing a knife on Ocean Drive, near 10th Street, at around 9:30 p.m. Saturday.

Surveillance video released by police on Monday showed the suspect, identified as 49-year-old Ryan Simms, holding a butcher knife in front of Mango’s South Beach, a restaurant located at 900 Ocean Drive.

“We were dealing with an extremely large man with a butcher knife,” said Mango’s owner David Wallack. “Not a pocket knife here. We’re talking about a butcher knife.”

Investigators said Simms waved the weapon around and threatened the employees at Mango’s.

“He was setting up shop, kind of like right over on the sidewalk, and getting ready to confront people walking down the sidewalk during dinnertime,” said Wallack.

Witnesses said he was threatening others as well.

“He was chasing after people with a knife, like a nunchuck,” said witness Sabrina Flores.

Police were called shortly after.

Cellphone video recorded by a tourist showed four Miami Beach Police officers pointing their guns at the suspect in front of the city’s Welcome Center.

Seconds later, audio from the cellphone video captured the pop of a stun gun, suggesting Simms had been shocked with a Taser by one of the officers, and the officers are seen rushing in and surrounding the man.

Moments later, at least two officers could be seen opening fire at close range.

“Like 20, 20 gunshots,” said Flores. “I just ducked down because I didn’t know where the gunshots were coming from.”

Police said the officers were forced to fire.

“An altercation occurred. The subject stabbed one of our officers resulting in several of our officers discharging their firearm,” said Miami Beach Police Officer Ernesto Rodriguez.

The cellphone video showed the officers briefly stopped firing their weapons so they could remove Castillo. Seconds later, at least two officers are seen opening fire several times.

Witnesses described a chaotic scene when the gunfire broke out.

“I was on the corner, literally about to walk on the street, when the shots rang out,” said a woman, “so we ran around the corner into the alley because we didn’t know if it was police or, like, just a citizen.”

“We heard it. We were right there,” said a man who was walking away from the scene. “‘Pop, pop, pop, pop, pop,’ and then everybody started running.”

Witnesses said they saw police officers going after someone. Moments later, they said, they heard multiple shots fired, prompting them to scramble for cover.

“I just heard the guns, and I go inside with my wife,” said a man.

Local residents said they knew Sims and believe he was homeless.

“I usually see this guy,” said Flores.

Witnesses said Simms usually kept to himself, but on Saturday night he was acting erratically.

Paramedics transported Simms to Ryder Trauma Center, where he later succumbed to his injuries.

Investigators said Castillo was also transported to Ryder Trauma Center, suffering from stab wounds to his arm and leg.

The officer was alert and conscious during transport. He was rushed into emergency surgery upon arrival and is currently listed in stable condition.

7News cameras captured cruisers from multiple agencies, including Miami Beach Police and City of Miami Police parked outside of the hospital.

Cameras also captured an officer’s duty belt that other officers put into a clear plastic bag.

Police shut down Ocean Drive to vehicular and pedestrian traffic between Ninth and 11th Street for hours.

In a Facebook post late Saturday night, Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber confirmed he went to the hospital to check on the injured officer and expressed his gratitude for the police department.

It read in part, “Tonight reminds us that we should be grateful that every day our police put themselves in harm’s way so that we don’t have to.”

Monday morning, Castillo remained in the intensive care unit. His sister said she is thankful for the outpouring of support from the community, and the family is asking for privacy at this time.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is investigating the shooting.

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