MIRAMAR, FLA. (WSVN) - As federal and state investigators piece together the circumstances behind the carjacking of a UPS truck that led to a deadly rush hour shootout in Miramar, witnesses are sharing their intense accounts of the tragedy that claimed four lives, including two innocent civilians, as questions swirl as to whether bystanders could have been better protected by police.
The rush hour shootout on Miramar Parkway, just east of Flamingo Road, sent drivers for cover, Thursday afternoon.
“It was pretty scary,” said witness Avilio Rodriguez.
Witnesses described a tense scene like something out of a movie.
“Shots start running out, ‘boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom!'” said an unidentified witness.
“They were shooting everywhere,” said witness Juliana Utz.
Friday afternoon, FBI and crime scene investigators combed through virtually every inch of every vehicle caught in the crossfire along the westbound lanes of Miramar Parkway, as the bullet-riddled UPS truck remained in the same spot where the shootout occurred. The FBI later hauled it away from the scene.
The 30-mile chase wound through Miramar and Pembroke Pines after a jewelry heist in Coral Gables. Inside the UPS truck were the two suspected robbers and their hostage, UPS driver Frank Ordonez.
Rodriguez said gunfire erupted as he drove with his young son Caleb on Miramar Parkway about 30 feet behind the UPS truck.
“I had to hold him down, kind of look up, hold him down, kind of look up,” he said. “You want to see what was going on, but I kept holding him down.”
“People were yelling, people were jumping out of their car, running back this way,” said the unidentified witness.
“I saw all of the police cars going in one direction on Miramar Parkway,” said witness Teresina Monroe. “Then, all of a sudden, they were coming in the opposite direction, and then we heard gunshots.”
Other drivers had to dive for cover.
Utz said she is still shaking.
“All of a sudden, it started like gunshots. They were like — I thought it was like, ‘Oh, my God, It looks like fireworks,’ and it was so fast,” she said.
Cellphone video shows her white Toyota Corolla stopped a few cars ahead of the UPS truck at the intersection of Miramar Parkway and Flamingo Road when the shootout started.
“[Police officers yelled], ‘Get down, get down, get back!’ ‘Boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom!'” said the unidentified witness.
Utz said she sped through traffic in a panic.
“I looked in the mirror, and I saw the smoke coming out, and I couldn’t think anymore,” she said. “I pressed the gas, the accelerator. I went through the red light, and I just go super fast.”
In about 30 seconds, however, it was all over. The UPS driver, 27-year-old Frank Ordonez, lay dead. The two suspected armed robbers, Lamar Alexander and Ronnie Jerome Hill, both 41, were also dead.
Alexander has a criminal history that reaches back into the 1990s, and he was convicted of armed robbery in 2008. He landed in prison after robbing a Mayors jewelry store in Fort Myers, then leading police on a high-speed chase up to Sarasota County. He was released from prison in 2017.
Hill also has a criminal history that dates back into the 1990s. He has convictions on burglary or related charges in 2014, 2015 and 2016. He, too, was released from prison in 2017.
Joe Merino, Ordonez’s stepfather, said the tragedy feels surreal to him.
“It’s a nightmare. It’s a bad dream that I hope to wake up from and see him here,” he said. “He’s not here. He lived with us.”
Merino said his stepson’s violent death has left his entire family traumatized.
“My wife is destroyed. It’s broken our hearts. I have a broken heart right now,” he said.
7News has learned the fourth person killed in the shooting was 70-year-old Richard Cutshaw, a driver who was caught in the crossfire. Cellphone video showed him slumped over the steering wheel of his dark colored sedan at the intersection of Miramar Parkway and Flamingo Road.
Cutshaw, a Pembroke Pines resident, was a union representative who represented thousands of government workers. He was two years away from retirement.
“You know, they go to work in the morning not knowing that they’re going to be involved in something like this so tragic,” said area resident Miguel Abreu. “It’s what it seems that this world is coming to.”
Now, investigators and crime scene technicians must pore over all of the evidence that at one point was strewn across the roadway to determine what sparked the shootout with innocent civilians in the line of fire.
“My question, and I’m not an attorney, and I’m not a police officer, but I’m a rational person, and reason tells me, why didn’t they secure the area?” said Merino. “Another innocent victim was killed, are you aware of that? Where was the SWAT team that normally handles all the hostage situations? Where was the long sniper? Where was the hostage negotiator? They came in full force.”
In an interview with 7News, Miami-Dade Director Juan Perez said the suspects fired first from inside the UPS truck, and there wasn’t anything else they could have done once they were placed in a situation like that.
Twenty-four hours later, Utz was at the same intersection she sped through, alive and safe, watching another UPS driver in the same spot, just going about his business.
“It’s just like it was yesterday. My prayers go out for the UPS driver, for the family and for the bystander,” she said. “You don’t wish that for anybody.”
The FBI and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement continue to investigate.
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