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Union: 4 Florida police officers indicted for 2019 shootout that left UPS driver and passerby dead

FILE - In this Dec. 5, 2019 file photo authorities investigate the scene of a shooting in Miramar, Fla. Four Florida police officers have been indicted in connection with a 2019 shootout on a busy street that left a UPS driver, the two robbers who hijacked him and a nearby driver dead, their union confirmed Tuesday, June 11, 2024. (Taimy Alvarez/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP, file)

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — Four Florida police officers have been indicted in connection with a 2019 shootout on a busy street that left a UPS driver, the two robbers who hijacked him and a nearby driver dead, their union confirmed Tuesday.

The South Florida Police Benevolent Association criticized the Broward County State Attorney's Office for seeking the grand jury indictment of the Miami-Dade County officers. The union did not say what the officers have been charged with and their names have not been released. They are expected to turn themselves in next week.

“We’re extremely disappointed that after almost five years, these officers are finding themselves indicted for something they had seconds to decide. It sends a chilling effect to officers in Broward County," union president Steadman Stahl said in a statement. "As the process moves forward, we will monitor it and defend our officers."

Broward State Attorney Harold Pryor and his office declined Tuesday to comment on the indictment or confirm it has been issued.

“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,” the statement said.

The Miami-Dade Police Department said in a statement that it is aware of the indictment, but has limited information because it remains sealed.

“Our Department respects the legal process to ensure transparency and accountability for our community,” the statement said.

The indictment was first reported by the Miami Herald.

The tragedy began when 41-year-old cousins Lamar Alexander and Ronnie Jerome Hill robbed the Regent Jewelers store in the Miami suburb of Coral Gables. Police said shots were being fired inside the store when officers arrived, summoned by a silent alarm. A store worker was hit in the head by a ricocheting bullet.

The robbers fled into a nearby neighborhood and hijacked Frank Ordonez, 27, who was delivering packages.

They led officers from multiple agencies on a long chase into southern Broward County during rush-hour traffic, running red lights and narrowly avoiding crashes. The chase attracted television news helicopters, which began broadcasting it live nationally.

A rear door of the UPS van was partly open, as well as the driver and passenger-side doors, enabling gunfire along the way. The van finally stopped in a middle lane at a busy intersection in a Fort Lauderdale suburbs, caught behind a wall of vehicles waiting for the light to turn green.

Witnesses told The Associated Press then that gunfire suddenly erupted as officers ran between cars toward the van. Ordonez, Alexander and Hill were killed inside the van. Richard Cutshaw, 70, was fatally struck by a stray bullet as he drove nearby. Investigators have not said if Ordonez and Cutshaw were shot by police, the robbers or both.

Policing experts told the AP in 2019 that the officers were in a tough spot. It appeared the robbers were firing from the van, endangering the officers, Ordonez, nearby drivers and their passengers. The officers needed to contain the robbers in the van so that they couldn’t run to another vehicle and take new hostages, the experts said.

It is highly unusual for Florida law enforcement officers to be charged for an on-duty killing — it has only happened three times in the last 40 years. Even then, only one of those officers has been convicted.

Three police officers in the Panhandle town of Crestview are awaiting trial on manslaughter charges for the 2021 death of Calvin Wilks Jr., who died after they allegedly jolted him with a stun gun. Those officers, who have pleaded not guilty, are awaiting trial.

Former Palm Beach Gardens officer Nouman Raja is serving a 25-year prison sentence after being convicted of manslaughter and attempted murder for the 2015 shooting of Corey Jones, whose SUV had broken down on an interstate highway off-ramp. Raja, working undercover and in plain clothes, never identified himself as a police officer when he approached Jones and began yelling at him, an audio recording showed. Jones, fearing he was being robbed, pulled his licensed handgun and tried to flee. Raja pursued and killed him, trial testimony showed.

A Broward sheriff’s deputy was charged with manslaughter for the 2014 fatal shooting of a man who was carrying a air rifle he had just purchased. Deputies yelled at Jermaine McBean, who spun around and was shot by Deputy Peter Peraza. A judge later threw out the manslaughter charge.

FILE - Bullet holes are seen around the UPS logo on a truck at the scene of a shooting, Dec. 5, 2019, in Miramar, Fla. Four Florida police officers have been indicted in connection with a 2019 shootout on a busy street that left a UPS driver, the two robbers who hijacked him and a nearby driver dead, their union confirmed Tuesday, June 11, 2024. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson, file)