Investigators are trying to piece together events that led to a shootout that left a Miami-Dade detective fighting for his life and the suspected gunman, a 32-year-old from Georgia, killed by police after a car chase that ended with a car crash in Liberty City.
Detective Cesar “Echy” Echaverry, 29, on Tuesday remained in critical condition at Jackson Memorial Hospital, leaving fellow officers stunned and donating to a police officer’s assistance fund for his grieving family. The Miami-Dade Police Department on Tuesday identified the gunman as Jeremy Willie Horton, of Lithia Springs, Georgia.
Late Tuesday afternoon, Miami-Dade’s SWAT team shot and killed an armed man at a Miami Springs hotel who they suspect may have partnered with Horton in in the armed robbery of a convenience store in Dania Beach on Monday.
The suspect had an AK-47-style rifle when confronted by officers serving a search warrant at the Extended Stay America hotel, Miami-Dade Police Director Alfredo “Freddy” Ramirez said during a brief media conference outside the hotel on Fairway Drive, just north of Miami International Airport.
Investigators don’t believe the dead man was involved in the Monday night shootout where Miami-Dade Police Officer Echaverry was left in grave condition with a bullet wound to his head and the suspected shooter, Horton, 32, was killed.
But Horton had been driving a white Hyundai linked to that robbery, which drew the attention of Echaverry and other officers with Miami-Dade’s Robbery Intervention Detail.
According to the Broward Sheriff’s Office, the robbery happened at about 3:39 p.m. Monday on the 400 block of East Dania Beach Boulevard. Two armed men had robbed the store, but the clerk managed to take a photo of the car’s tag.
A license-plate reader led investigators to a Miami Springs hotel, where the car had been spotted earlier in the day. A bulletin was issued — and Miami-Dade RID detectives pulled over the car on Northwest 62nd Street and 17th Avenue in Liberty City about 8:21 p.m.
That’s where Horton, surrounded by police cars, refused to come out and then drove off, according to the department. “The subject resisted, rammed our police cars and evaded,” Police Director Ramirez told reporters on Tuesday afternoon at a press conference.
A short car chase ended when the Hyundai plowed into a passing car, and then a utility pole at Northwest 62nd Street and Seventh Avenue. The people in the passing car were not seriously hurt.
Cellphone video obtained by WSVN-7 showed Horton getting out of the car and running away, officers right behind him. “Our officers, including Echy, as brave as they are, fled on foot after the subject so that he would not be a threat to our community,” Ramirez said.
That’s when gunfire erupted. Echaverry was hit in the head. Other police officers fired their weapons, and Horton was killed on the scene not far from his car. A gun believed used by Horton was recovered on the scene, sources say.
At least three other officers fired their guns, although it’s not clear how many shots were fired during the exchange.
Echaverry, a five-year veteran of the force, was rushed to Ryder Trauma Center. He remains in intensive care at Jackson Memorial Hospital, his parents by his side. The Miami-Dade mayor, referring to RID as an “essential front-line unit,” said the unit and officers “shoulder a sacred responsibility.”
“Our top priority is to continue to support his family,” Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said at the press conference.
Said Ramirez: “Our officers are hurting very bad. We stand together praying for him. We will not quit.”
Exactly how long Horton had been in South Florida remains unclear — but he’d been pulled over by a Golden Beach police officer on Aug. 8 while driving a 2021 gray 4-door Chrysler. Records show at the time he had a suspended Georgia driver’s license but no warrants out for his arrest, according to Golden Beach Police Chief Rudy Herbello.
“Mr. Horton advised the officers that he was lost, thinking that he was in Hallandale and that his driver license was suspended,” Herbello said.
The chief said Horton was given citations for having no proof of insurance, having an expired tag and driving with a suspended Georgia license.
Records show Horton has been arrested numerous times in his home state since 2011, when he was charged with two minor marijuana possession charges. But in 2013, police in Marietta, Georgia, arrested Horton on charges of aggravated assault on an officer, three counts of felony obstruction of police and criminal trespassing.
The disposition of the case was unclear, but records from the Cobb County Sheriff’s Office show he wound up spending nearly 300 days in jail for that case.
The following year, he was charged with driving without a license, obstruction of an officer and failure to stay in a traffic lane, followed by charges of speeding, not having a tag and failing to appear in court.
Then in 2019, Horton was accused in Cobb County of battery, cruelty to a child and giving a false name, court records show. He spent 200 days in jail, but was ultimately released on bond to await trial, court records show.
The case, however, was dropped in July 2022 after prosecutors said they could not prove the case “at the request, or due to the unavailability, of the alleged victim.”
Horton’s father, reached on Tuesday, declined to speak. “I don’t know anything about that,” he said.