Police officers are shown near the location of a shootout that erupted in a Miami neighborhood on Thursday, Jan. 20, 2011, killing two Miami-Dade police officers and a suspect, authorities said. Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez said the first officer had been shot once and died at the scene. The second officer, who was shot several times, was taken to a hospital and later died, Alvarez said
MIAMI - Two Miami-Dade Police officers have died after gunfire erupted as they served a warrant on a suspect, who would also die.
According to Miami-Dade Police Director James Loftus, Officer Roger Castillo would die on the scene outside a home in Liberty City and Amanda Haworth would pass away while undergoing surgery at Jackson Memorial Hospital, Thursday. "Our worst nightmare was visited upon us again today," Loftus said.
The body of Castillo was removed at 3:45 in the afternoon. A Miami-Dade Fire Rescue ambulance would transport the body as several motorcycle officers and police cruisers escorted the vehicle to the medical examiner's office.
A second procession would form at JMH, just after 6 p.m., for Haworth. Her body was draped with a U.S. flag, as she was wheeled into an ambulance, which would take her body to the ME's office. A stream of officers would line up and walk with the body into the building.
A command post and rows of police tape would remain on the scene, at a home on Northwest 69th Street and Seventh Avenue, as police continued to investigate the scene following the shooting that went off at about 11 in the morning. "These officers died in the line of duty very heroically," said Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez.
Miami-Dade Police Commander Nancy Perez was the first officer to break the news that Castillo had died, just after 12 noon. "The other officer... We lost one," she said as she struggled to hold back tears. "He was an excellent officer, an excellent man, just like any other officer that is out there working to protect the community," she said.
Later, Alvarez would announce Haworth had passed away at around 1 p.m. "I'm sad to report that the second officer that was shot on the scene expired at Jackson Memorial Trauma Center," he said. "She got to the trauma center in extremely critical condition. The trauma center, being the professionals that they are, did everything they could to save her, but apparently she lost her life."
Alvarez, who was once the Director of Miami-Dade Police, said he took this shooting very personal. "It's shocking, it's heartfelt, really I can't put it into words," he said. "I'm not here as the mayor speaking because, when you know someone and the type of job they are doing, it's personal."
Loftus arrived at the shooting scene soon after Castillo's body was removed, and he would not hold back his feelings. "I've been doing this a long time," Loftus said, "and I am angry. These people are two angels from our police department, and they were murdered today, and I'm angry about it."
Lisa Tuffy, officer Castillo's neighbor, teared up as she remembered what a great man he was. "Roger was a man of integrity, morals, a fabulous sense of humor, and we were very blessed to have him in the neighborhood," she said.
Before he identified the officers, Loftus had spent time at JMH with colleagues and Haworth's loved ones. "I know these people," Loftus said. "It's a close knit group, and we're torn apart about this. It makes me sick, nauseated to talk to an officer's father who has been murdered."
He said both officers had more than 40 years experience on the police force between them, Castillo with 21 years, Haworth with 23. Both leave behind children, he said, Castillo three and Haworth one. "We have four children who lost their parents today," Loftus said.
Loftus said Castillo and Haworth were backed up by two other officers, Deidre Beecher, who would suffer a knee injury, and Oscar Pasencia, a 30-year veteran, who would shoot the suspect. Loftus identified the suspect as Johnny Simms, 23, a "documented career criminal."
He said, the team was serving a homicide warrant on Simms, wanted for a murder out of the City of Miami. He said the group had approached the home with body armor that had clearly identified them as police. "They were murdered," Loftus said. "It was one subject. That suspect, that subject, that murderer is deceased."
Alvarez blamed a family member for stalling police while Simms armed himself. "They made contact with a member of the family who said they would be right back," the mayor said. "They didn't come out. Obviously, they encountered the subject. There were gunshots exchanged."
Luftus said Simms shot the two officers with a handgun before Pasencia delivered the shot that would kills Simms. The officers were about to arrest Simms with a first degree murder warrant for the death of a person in Overtown, on Oct. 16. The warrant said, Simms had killed the victim over some words said about his sister. "That guy is evil," said Loftus. "He murdered two of my people today."
Beecher was also transported to JMH to receive treatment for her knee injury, which Loftus said, was not the result of a gunshot wound. He added that she was just being released as he was leaving the hospital.
Nearly everyone in the neighborhood said they hear gunshots in their everyday lives, so they at first did not think much of the blasts they heard late Thursday morning, but then the police flooded in. One man described the hectic scene following the shooting. "I was trying to get something to eat, and maybe 35 police cars came shooting by me," said Willie Locker.
Witnesses said they heard a series of quick shots. "Several shots, maybe seven or eight shots," said another witness, who was not identified.
Locker shared a sentiment many echoed in the neighborhood: a frustration with the constant gunfire. "It's senseless, unbelievable. Nobody is safe, nobody," he said. "These things should not be happening in the neighborhood."
Michelle Cornish also lives in neighborhood. "It's not safe nowhere," she said. "It really needs to stop. The community needs to come together."
Freddie Free said he often sees young people with guns in the neighborhood and, too often, the fatal results. "There's too much death in the area," he said, "too much gun play, too many young people with guns."
Meanwhile, police continue to investigate and interview those in the home Simms was found in.
Flags at the Miami-Dade Police Headquarters in Doral are flying at half-staff. At a press conference at JMH, Miami-Dade Police Lt. Rosanna Cordero-Stutz said, "This is part of what police officers face everyday, and that's not just here, in Miami-Dade, it happens across the country. We're people too."