Teen charged with Hollywood officer’s murder claimed he was trying to kill himself, not cop

·5 min read

The teenager accused of murdering Hollywood Police Officer Yandy Chirino boasted a long juvenile arrest record and had recently been released from a “high-risk” residential juvenile detention center for selling cocaine.

Once he was confronted by Chirino for breaking into cars, according to an arrest warrant released Tuesday, Jason Banegas claimed he didn’t want to go back to jail — and shot the officer during a botched attempt to take his own life.

Banegas, 18, whose criminal history dates back to when he was 12 years old, was booked into the Broward County Jail late Monday on a first-degree murder charge and made his first appearance in court Tuesday. His forehead bruised and dressed in a green vest to protect against suicide attempts, Banegas mostly stared toward the floor during his appearance.

He only briefly acknowledged Broward Circuit Court Judge Tabitha Blackmon, who noted that Banegas is accused of shooting Chirino in the face. Under Florida law, someone charged with first-degree murder cannot automatically bond out of jail.

“I am going to hold him no bond based on these allegations,” Blackmon said.

Banegas is accused of killing Chirino late Sunday evening in the Hollywood residential community of Emerald Hills. Sunday was supposed to be a day off for Chirino, only 28 and a four-year police veteran. But the officer contacted his boss and asked to work, according to a report from WPLG Channel 10.

According to an arrest warrant, a man on a bicycle was seen “going house to house” Sunday evening trying to get into cars on the 4000 block of North 44th Avenue. A bulletin was issued for the man. A few minutes later, Chirino found Banegas and a scuffle ensued — the officer was shot in the face, the warrant said.

Another officer, identified only as MRB, arrived and saw the tail end of the incident. “The suspect was holding a pistol, and the victim was attempting to wrestle the pistol away from him,” the warrant said.

Officer MRB kicked Banegas, who dropped the gun, and after grappling, arrested the gunman, police said. The Hollywood officer began to perform CPR on Chirino, and paramedics rushed the mortally wounded man to Memorial Regional Hospital with a gunshot wound between his ear and jaw, the warrant added.

Detectives interviewed a man — described as the brother of Banegas’ girlfriend — who told police that he’d been with Banegas. The man’s car was broken down in front of the Emerald Hills Country Club and as he waited for a tow truck, Banegas rode off on a bicycle. Banegas returned about 30 minutes later, with AirPods, an iPhone and some cash, apparently stolen from cars, the warrant said.

He left the items, wrapped in a white shirt, on a bench and rode off again — and that’s when two gunshots rang out, the man told police.

Banegas confessed to break-ins and engaging in a fight with the officer. “He stated he was being disrespected by the officer and panicked because he was carrying a concealed weapon and did not want to go back to jail as he was just released 30 days ago,” the warrant said.

But Banegas claimed he wasn’t trying to kill Chirino when he pulled out the gun. Instead, Banegas noted, he was trying to kill himself “but the officer kept moving around during the struggle” as he pulled the trigger.

“He maintained he was unaware the officer was shot,” the warrant said.

In addition to first-degree murder, Banegas is also facing charges of resisting arrest with violence, armed burglary, grand theft of a firearm and carrying a concealed weapon. His scaled-back arrest warrant says the gun he used to kill Chirino was stolen from somewhere in Miami-Dade County in September. It’s not clear if Banegas stole it.

Rod Skirvin, president of Broward County’s Police Benevolent Association, which represents most of Hollywood’s 300 sworn officers, said he was unaware of any ceremonial plans for Chirino. He added that the union will assign officers to the family’s home and to escort them through the funeral, if needed.

Chirino has received five commendations from the department since his 2017 hiring. Four of them involved stopping vehicle break-ins. A fifth was for being a “celebrity waiter” during a tip-a-cop event at a Longhorn Steakhouse.

Miami-Dade County records show Banegas was arrested at least seven times as a juvenile, mostly on charges of burglary and grand theft, although the disposition of those cases remains unclear.

His most recent arrest was in Miami in September 2020, when he was charged with possession of cocaine with intent to sell.

As part of a plea agreement in November, Banegas was placed into the custody of the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice, and sent to a residential facility for “high risk” offenders. He was put on “conditional” release in July. The terms of the release were not immediately clear and his attorney had not responded to a request for comment as of Tuesday afternoon.

DJJ did not respond to a request for comment.

Chirino was the third South Florida law enforcement officer killed in the line of duty this year who didn’t die from complications related to COVID-19. In February, FBI agents Laura Schwartzenberger and Daniel Alfin were shot and killed in Sunrise while serving a warrant to a man wanted on child pornography charges. Three other agents were injured.

Banegas was arrested for juvenile delinquency in 2015 and for illegally entering and stealing items from a school in Miami a year later, according to Miami Dade records. He was charged four times in 2018 for breaking into or stealing a vehicle. Two of those arrests were in Coral Gables, another on Miami Beach and a fourth in Miami.

Chirino, who was not married but had a girlfriend, graduated from Coral Park Senior High School in 2011, where he played soccer. He was an extreme sport enthusiast who came to the U.S. from Cuba at a young age and was the youngest of two children, according to Channel 10.

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