Police shot and killed four masked and armed men in a sting operation, including one man who was cooperating with Miami-Dade police in an investigation of a series of violent home robberies, authorities said.
The shooting happened Thursday evening at a residence owned by the Miami-Dade Police Department in a southwest section of the county, in an area of homes and plant nurseries. Investigators say the men believed there was a stash of marijuana inside but were instead confronted by officers, who told them to put down their weapons.
The men did not comply and a confrontation ensued in which all four men were shot, police spokesman Detetctive Javier Baez said Friday. No officers were injured.
"An incident occurred that our special response team had to fire on these individuals," Baez said. He was not able to confirm whether the men had fired at police.
Those killed were identified as: Rosendo Betancourt Garcia, 39, the cooperating defendant; Jorge Luis Lemus, 39; and Roger Gonzalez Valez, 52. The fourth victim has not been identified. A fifth person, Roger Gonzalez, Jr., 32, was outside in a car and taken into custody.
The shooting capped the end of what police described as a lengthy investigation into a group of individuals who targeted marijuana grow houses. Baez said the suspects at times misidentified the residences and proceeded with targeting, and torturing, innocent individuals.
"These are career criminals," Baez said.
Betancourt has a criminal record that includes convictions for selling and trafficking cocaine. He was the one who alerted police to the suspects, Baez said. He was instructed by police not to go with the men to the operation. Officials did not say how Betancourt ended up in the shootout.
Gricell Perez, arrived at the crime scene Friday morning said Betancourt was her son-in-law and that he left his three children with her Thursday afternoon, telling her, "Please watch the kids, I'm going to help the police on a case."
She said through tears that he had been working the last seven months as a construction worker.
Perez's son, Mike Xavier, said his brother-in-law contacted Xavier's sister once to tell her he was going with the police on a case and that he was going to use a ski mask.
A black Mercedes was parked outside the sting house Friday. Several bullet holes laced the garage of the ranch house. TV footage taken of the scene showed several bodies lying outside in the early morning.
Residents in the neighborhood of homes and mango orchards, a few miles from the Everglades, described hearing a swarm of helicopters overnight. They said they have seen an increase in crime over the last year.
Aleida Rojas said shots had been fired through her window last year and that someone recently tried to break the lock of her front door.
"I live quite fearfully," she said.
Associated Press Writer Christine Armario contributed to this story.