After years as an informant, Gonzalez Sr. wasn't going to fall for another warehouse trap. But police thought they could lure him into trying to rip off 20 pounds of pot from a marijuana stash house. On June 30, Betancourt gave him the address in the Redland. The trap was set.

It's a mystery when Andrew got involved. But on June 30, Andrew drove his '93 Oldsmobile from Opa-locka to a secluded ranch two miles southwest of the Redland stash house. There he met the Gonzalezes, Betancourt, and an ex-con named Jorge Lemus.

Andrew and the men piled into a microphone-wired SUV that cops had given Betancourt and drove to the Redland house. Police call what happened next a successful sting. Andrew's family has another name for it: a death trap.


Antonio Andrew celebrates his son A.J.'s first birthday in 1995.
Courtesy of Ladonna Florence
Antonio Andrew celebrates his son A.J.'s first birthday in 1995.
The Redland house where Miami-Dade police ambushed the robbers.
Michael E. Miller
The Redland house where Miami-Dade police ambushed the robbers.

Cops say stings such as the Redland operation take violent career criminals off the streets, one way or another. Gonzalez's crew alone was responsible for 19 robberies in six months, says Miami-Dade Police Maj. Raul Ubieta. The Street Terror Offender Program (STOP) has busted 53 home invasion gangs since 2005, Ubieta boasts.

As head of the Miami-Dade Police Department's robbery bureau, Ubieta ranks home invasions just behind rape and murder on his list of heinous crimes. More than anyone else, he is responsible for green-lighting the sting operation in the Redland. And although he says he can't discuss the details of that deadly night, he insists all the robbers had it coming.

"These guys were armed," he says. "They were going to do a home invasion, a rip. These guys had been involved in torture. Not a one of them was innocent going in. Not a one of them."

But three of those stings have gone wrong, and all in a disturbingly similar way: with suspects getting shot despite apparently never firing at police. In all three cases, cops chose the location and positioned dozens of officers with sniper rifles nearby. Each time, they seemed better prepared to kill than to capture their prey. And the same officers were involved in several of the killings.

The first STOP operation that turned deadly happened September 7, 2006. Detectives staged an elaborate setup. Using a confidential informant, they tricked six career criminals into thinking a tractor-trailer with 80 kilos of cocaine was parked behind a Medley warehouse. The robbers arrived wearing fake FBI and DEA shirts. Two of them, with guns in their hands, approached the truck and screamed "DEA" and "FBI." That's when the real cops opened fire.

Jorge Torres, 21, was shot five times and died at the scene. Joe Guevara, 23, was shot but survived. He and four other suspects were convicted of gun and drug charges. The Special Response Team (SRT) officers who fired their weapons said they saw Torres and Guevara raise their guns as if to shoot. All eight cops were cleared of wrongdoing.

A year later, STOP detectives planned another, nearly identical ambush. This time they targeted a seven-member gang led by three brothers. Again, a confidential informant suggested a drug heist, telling the gang that a tractor-trailer parked in another Medley warehouse was packed with 70 kilos of cocaine. Even better, he told them, the driver would be asleep on the job.

The gang drove in a black Ford Expedition to the warehouse district, where at least two dozen cops were waiting for them. As they pulled into the parking lot, 12 snipers followed them from perches on surrounding buildings. Three Ryder moving trucks were ready to pull out and block the vehicle's escape. But there was no need. The Expedition's driver stopped the SUV and ran up to the cab of the trailer. He had a nickel-plated pistol in his hand and a mask over his face. As soon as he pointed the gun at the cab, an SRT officer hidden inside a metal box on the roof gave the "takedown" command. Lt. Luis Alvarez then stood up and shouted, "Police! Put your hands on your head and don't move."

The man turned and raised his gun. Suddenly, bullets struck him in the head, chest, and abdomen, killing him instantly. Four more snipers — believing they were being shot at — opened fire. They rattled off more than 30 rounds in ten seconds. When one of the would-be robbers climbed out of the Expedition to apparently take refuge behind it, the snipers shot him in the face, stomach, and wrist. When cops later searched his dead body, they discovered he was unarmed. The two other men in the SUV were also shot multiple times but survived.

The two deadly ambushes shed light on what likely happened last summer in the Redland. As Andrew, Gonzalez Sr., Betancourt, and Lemus crept toward the house, there were no warehouses for snipers to perch on. Instead, neighbors say the officers were hidden around and perhaps inside the house. More snipers were in the van that burst through the gate.

As in 2006 and 2007, police apparently didn't wait for the suspects to shoot before opening fire. There is "no evidence that shows that the subjects fired their weapons," a police spokesman tells New Times. Although Miami-Dade police won't explicitly say what happened until they close their investigation, they've never claimed the group shot at officers.


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2 comments
anhonestcitizen
anhonestcitizen

Armed Felones in the process of commiting yet ANOTHER series of Violent Crimes. Shot Dead before they could do so. It doesn't get any better than that....

Sendmovers
Sendmovers

New Times has no business reporting the news to the general public. This company stays in business by selling and promoting ads for prostitutes in the back of their paper (see it for yourself). If you enjoy sticking up for drug dealers and sex traffic operations then this is a good newspaper to read. Just tell me where to get cheap dinners and beers like you specialize in and let the real newspapers handle the "Crime" stories. Thanks,  P.S. I'm reading this article and it says it's published on Thursday, May 24th 2012 but Today is only TUESDAY MAY 22nd 2012. 

 
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