Source: CNN

Four Miami-Dade police officers have been indicted by a grand jury in connection with a 2019 shootout with suspects in a hijacked UPS truck that resulted in the deaths of a hostage delivery driver and a bystander, the Miami-Dade Police Department said Tuesday.

The chaotic December 5, 2019, gun battle sent a spray of bullets across a crowded South Florida intersection as at least 18 officers from three jurisdictions pursued a pair of jewelry heist suspects who had hijacked the UPS truck and led authorities on a lengthy vehicle chase.

The indictment is under seal, police said Tuesday.

“The Miami-Dade Police Department is aware that four of its officers were recently indicted by a Broward County grand jury,” the department said in a release. “Since grand jury proceedings are not disclosed under Florida law until otherwise ordered by a judge, the information that we have is limited. Our department respects the legal process to ensure transparency and accountability for our community.”

Earlier this week, the South Florida Police Benevolent Association, a police union, said the indictment was expected.

“We’re extremely disappointed that after almost five years, these officers are finding themselves indicted for something they had seconds to decide,” South Florida Police Benevolent Association president Steadman Stahl said.

The names of the indicted officers and the specific charges they face have not been publicly released.

In a statement to CNN, the Broward County State Attorney’s Office said: “Grand jury proceedings are secret under Florida law, and any proceedings or actions taken by a grand jury are not public until a judge makes them so. We are not at liberty to comment at this time.”

Stahl pointed to the officers’ indictments – as well as the indictment of a former school resource officer who was found not guilty for not entering an active mass shooting scene at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018 – and warned that the prosecutions send mixed messages to law enforcement.

“It sends a chilling effect to officers in Broward County that their state attorney’s office prosecutes one officer for not responding to an active shooter and now indicting officers for responding to active shooters. As the process moves forward, we will monitor it and defend our officers,” Stahl said.

The 2019 confrontation began with an armed robbery at a jewelry store in Coral Gables, near Miami. The two suspects, Lamar Alexander and Ronnie Jerome Hill, then hijacked the UPS truck and took its driver hostage, leading police on a 30-mile chase that spanned two counties and was punctuated by occasional gunfire from the delivery truck.

The chase ground to a halt at a traffic-packed intersection in Miramar, where gunfire wizzed between the suspects and police, some of whom were using their vehicles as impromptu shields.

In the end, four people were shot and killed, including the two robbery suspects, a bystander, and hostage UPS driver Frank Ordonez, who relatives say had been filling in for a colleague who had called out from work that day.

The bystander, Richard “Rick” Cutshaw, was a local union field representative who was caught in the crossfire as he was driving home from work, according to Don Slesnick, a lawyer for the Office and Professional Employees International Union where Cutshaw worked.

At least 13 police officers were shot at, but none were injured, Stahl said at the time.

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