MIAMI, FL — In perhaps the largest case of contagious fire on record, a suspect’s vehicle was riddled with hundreds of bullets in a chaotic and frenzied show of police force following a pursuit. Witnesses emphatically said that the vehicle’s 2 occupants were trying to surrender, but that did not stop a total of 23 police officers from firing at least 377 shots at the vehicle. The officers’ wild volleys of bullets struck not only the suspects, but also neighboring houses, businesses, vehicles — even fellow police officers.
The situation occurred early in the morning hours of of December 10th, 2013. Questions about the use of force have lingered about this case for months.
A robbery suspect, Adrian Montesano, had his vehicle pinned between a utility pole and a tree following a pursuit at approximately 5:00 a.m. Dozens of officers had participated in the chase — so many that it worked to their detriment.
As the blue Volvo remained stationary, officers aimed their rifles towards it from every angle. For nearly 2 minutes, officers tensely waited with weapons aimed.
Suddenly, one of the officers opened fire. The gunshots caused other officers to join in. Roughly 50 shots were fired at once.
This would only be the opening volley. The real fireworks were yet to come.
The men inside the car managed to survive the initial onslaught. The driver was the only one suspected of a crime. The passenger’s only mistake was having the wrong choice of friends.
A witness, Anthony Vandiver, whose house had already been shot by police in the initial blasts, ran to an upstairs window and had a perfect view down at the blue Volvo disabled in front of his house.
“They said, ‘put your hands up!’ And the guys were still moving after they shot, like maybe 50-60 times,” recalled Mr. Vandiver to CBS-4 Miami. “And the guys tried to put their hands up, and as soon as they put their hands up, it erupted again.”
As the suspects raised their hands following officers’ commands, another intense volley of gunfire was launched. This time, much greater than before. The frenzied gunfire continued rapidly for 25 full seconds as dozens of officers emptied their magazines.
In all, a total of at least 377 rounds had been fired, from 23 separate officers.
The attack was so poorly executed that 2 different officers were struck by friendly fire. One cop was shot in the leg and another was grazed in the head. There was so much gunfire that the noise ruptured the eardrums of two other officers.
“Get all the officers off to the side. We’ve got to get rescue in here,” a panicked officer said on a radio transmission. “There’s too many officers here! Back them up!!”
Adrian Montesano and his innocent passenger, Corsini Valdes, were dead.
“That was it for them. That guy tried his best to give up,” stated Mr. Vandiver. “I swear to God; on everything I love, my kids my momma, everything. I seen it all.”
After months of speculation, it has finally been confirmed that neither man in the car was armed at the time of their death. One of the biggest questions that remains is how the police justified their use of deadly force as the vehicle was immobilized.
Even if the initial officer fired because he “saw a gun,” there is no plausible way that 23 separate officers each individually identified a threat before discharging their weapons. In short, they were firing because officers next to them were firing — a phenomenon known as “contagious fire” or “sympathetic fire.” It is a dangerous response and leads to excessive and irresponsible uses of force. Some of the more professional departments train to avoid it.
If the lack of professionalism in Miami-Dade was not evident enough, a witnesses account of what happened afterwards might clear it up.
“The policemen that had on the black and white vests were out there laughing like it was so funny because they got a free shot off them people,” said one of the neighbors to CBS-4 Miami. “Shooting all them bullets like that, that don’t make no sense.”
Disturbingly, this has happened before — right in Miami. In 2011, twelve Miami Police shot a vehicle stopped at a street light 116 times. A believable explanation of the incident has never been offered.