23 Police Officers Fire 377 Bullets at Two Men With Zero Guns

A deadly barrage endangered numerous innocent residents of Miami.
Colum O'Dwyer/Flickr

I've long proposed a simple rule: police officers who shoot unarmed innocents should have their guns taken away. They can work desk jobs or monitor meters. But if nothing else, they shouldn't ever be in a position to put lives in danger again.

Applying that rule in Miami would have dramatic consequences.

The local CBS affiliate has investigated a police shooting that happened there last December. The results are jaw-dropping. A man who committed armed robbery and shot a police officer hours earlier was spotted in his automobile, along with a passenger who played no role in his crime. Police officers gave chase.

CBS reports what happened next:

The suspect's blue Volvo crashed into the backyard of a townhouse.

It was later determined that neither the suspect nor the passenger was armed. Police officers nevertheless fired two barrages of bullets into the vehicle. Witnesses say that after the first volley of approximately 50 bullets, the two men were still alive. 

Anthony Vandiver, who lives in a building adjacent to the lot, saw the incident. “They were saying put your hands up, and the guys were still moving after they shot maybe 50, 60 times,” he said. “And the guy tried to put his hands up. And as soon as he put his hands up, it erupted again. And that was it for them. That guy tried his best to give up. I swear to God on everything I love, my kids, my momma, everything, I seen it all.”

Roughly two minutes passed between volleys.

After the second volley both men were dead. Said another witness: "The policemen that had on the black and white vests were out there laughing like it was so funny."

The behavior already noted is inexcusable.

Additional details from CBS underscore how extraordinarily reckless was the behavior of these police officers:

  • "Bullets were sprayed everywhere. They hit the Volvo, other cars in the lot, fence posts and neighboring businesses. They blasted holes in a townhouse where a 12-year-old dove to the ground for cover and a four month old slept in his crib."
  • "Two Miami Dade police officers were hit as well—caught in the crossfire. One officer was shot in the arm and the second was hit in the arm and grazed in the head. If the bullet had struck just a half an inch to the side the officer would have been killed."
  • "Senior commanders admit they are very lucky more officers weren’t seriously hurt or killed. Even more haunting is the danger the residents in the area faced. At the time of the shooting, parents were getting their kids ready for school and across the street men and women stood exposed on a Metrorail platform."

The incident is still under investigation. 

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Conor Friedersdorf is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he focuses on politics and national affairs. He lives in Venice, California, and is the founding editor of The Best of Journalism, a newsletter devoted to exceptional nonfiction.

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