A police pursuit of two suspected Coral Gables jewelry store robbers ended in shocking violence on Thursday on live TV: four dead; a jewelry store employee wounded.
The dead included a hostage and an innocent bystander — people you never want to see die in a police operation.
For anyone watching on television as the afternoon rush hour chase of the hijacked UPS truck and its driver stretched from Miami-Dade to Broward County, the culmination was surreal and jarring — a sudden gunbattle between the suspects and police, surrounded by drivers trapped at a traffic light at Miramar Parkway and Flamingo Road. Officers from various departments jumped out of their cruisers and closed in on the big brown truck as motorists trapped at the light tried to get out of harm’s way. But for the grace of God, there go any of us.
The most tragic scene happened next. The UPS driver, who found himself in the middle of a barrage of bullets, tried to jump out of the truck, only to be fatally wounded, as we watched live.
To their credit, South Florida television stations quickly pulled back or cut the feed to spare the audience of such front seat to violence. But we sadly watched a young man fight for his life, and fail.
It was heartbreaking. For a brief time, our communal thought was hopeful: “Did the UPS driver make it?”
The bullets kept coming, more than 100 rounds, killing an unsuspecting motorist and also the two armed robbers. Nearly 20 officers from different departments opened fire.
Now many more questions must be answered by the FBI. Could the hostage and the innocent bystander have been better protected? Whose bullets killed the victims? Should officers have approached the truck knowing the suspects were armed and firing?
Clearly, the blame lies with the brazen and reckless thieves who sparked this tragedy — just as a deeply disturbed young man was to blame for the murders at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland.
But, as with Parkland, such a tragic loss of life warrants a careful examination of what went wrong, and how we can do better.