MIAMI (AP) – A taxi driver armed with an assault rifle opened fire on an officer, then stole the officer’s cruiser and led police on a chaotic car chase before he was shot and wounded Tuesday, authorities said. Two bystanders also were hurt.
The officer shot back, and neither man was hit during that initial gunfight, said Miami police spokesman Sgt. Freddie Cruz. However, the suspect managed to steal the police car and speed away.
Witnesses said the taxi driver, who was not immediately identified, had been involved in some sort of altercation at a taxi company before he encountered the officer.
“He caused a disturbance and they called the police,” said Joel Lubin, manager of a different taxi company across the street. “We saw the shooting, and that’s about it.”
Local Fraternal Order of Police President Javier Ortiz said a motorist passing by in a van used the vehicle to provide cover for the officer while the suspect was firing the assault rifle.
“The Fraternal Order of Police wants to thank this good Samaritan for putting his life on the line to save one of our brothers,” Ortiz said.
Meanwhile, the suspect in the stolen police car headed with officers in pursuit toward North Miami, where the chase ended in a residential neighborhood.
North Miami officers traded gunfire with the suspect, who was shot and wounded during that gunfight and taken for treatment at a local hospital. The stolen Miami police cruiser was parked for hours behind crime scene tape with a bullet hole in its back window.
Authorities say two motorists were also wounded with apparently non-life threatening injuries – one in the vicinity of the initial confrontation and one closer to where the cab driver was stopped. The names of those involved have not been released. The suspect’s condition was not immediately available.
Local resident Robbie Hobbs said he was watching television in his apartment when he heard loud police sirens. He looked out the window and saw the suspect emerge from the stolen police cruiser.
“I see the guy walking with a weapon in his hands. He fired a shot,” Hobbs said. “The siren was just going and going.”
Hobbs said he ducked down inside his apartment and did not see any more of the confrontation.
“He picked the wrong place to come to have a shootout with the police. They were on him in under a minute,” Hobbs said.