Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Miami FBI Shootout - The Lost Tapes


April 11, 1986, approx. 9 a.m.: A squad of more than a dozen FBI agents in 11 cars are about to conduct a stakeout of banks along South Dixie Highway.

Nine days later, on April 20, 1986, the Miami Herald published a reconstruction of the first 15 or 20 minutes of their stakeout and the shootout that followed. Before the day was out, it was being called the bloodiest day in FBI history:
It was a bright clear morning, just after 9 o'clock, and the poky traffic was up to its usual tricks on South Dixie: stop, start, stop, start. A typical mess. It had been this way for several Fridays now. The FBI agents in their big, comfortable cars. Fighting the traffic. Watching, waiting and making small talk on the car radios.

There had been nothing.

No sign of the bank robbers whose peculiar brand of gratuitous violence prompted the FBI and Metro-Dade police to flood the Suniland area of South Dixie Highway with agents from a high-priority task force. Fridays are paydays; Fridays are best for robbing banks.

"Attention all units," the FBI car radios crackled. "We're behind a black vehicle, two-door, Florida license NTJ-891. We're headed south on South Dixie, no, north on South Dixie."

It was Grogan. Every agent in South Florida knew his bark, the precise, gravelly voice clipping each word. Special Agent Benjamin P. Grogan was something of a legend in the FBI's Miami field office. He had been with the bureau 25 years, and he had done it all.

At least one of the agents that morning - Grogan perhaps - also had a radio tuned to the Metro Police Department's Southwest District frequency.

At 9:20 a.m., a Metro police supervisor gets on the air and asks the dispatcher to advise all Kendall units of the FBI stakeout.

Twelve minutes later, at 9:32 a.m., an FBI agent using the unit number 2960 comes up on the county frequency to advise that he and his fellow agents are behind the bank robbery suspects' vehicle and traveling north on U.S. 1.

Five minutes later, at 9:37, the dispatcher advises units that calls are coming in about machine gun fire at S.W. 120th Street and 82nd Ave.

Her calls to FBI unit 2960 go unanswered.

At 9:41 a.m. a Metro police supervisor arrives on the scene and advises the dispatcher that there are "five on the ground."

Within weeks of the shootout, cassette tapes of that morning's radio transmissions were being circulated within South Florida's law enforcement community. However, very few civilians have ever heard the entire tape.

Until now.

Embedded below, are the first 30 minutes of the morning's radio transmissions. [NOTE: If you're unable to see the embedded audio file below, try accessing it by clicking here.]

(NOTE: The audio of the radio transmissions ends at the 29:55 mark. At the 31:23 mark, the tape picks up with audio of the calls that the 911 center started receiving from witnesses at 9:36 a.m.)




Herald Staff Writers

Two FBI agents and two bank robbery suspects were killed and five more FBI men were wounded Friday morning when a wild shoot-out -- the most devastating in FBI history -- erupted on a residential street in Kendall.

More than 100 shots from automatic weapons, shotguns and pistols tore across the suburban Miami street just south of the Suniland Shopping Plaza. The shooting, which started at about 9:35 a.m., lasted more than five minutes.

Agents in front of a white house at 12201 SW 82nd Ave. tried to protect themselves with big white bulletproof bibs -- to no avail. When it was over, only one of eight FBI agents emerged unscathed.

12201 SW 82nd Ave. today. 

Both robbers -- who were driving a car they had stolen from a man they had robbed and shot at a West Dade rock pit last month -- were sprawled in the street, dead.

So were the two agents who had chased the suspects up South Dixie Highway, behind the Dixie Belle shopping center and onto the narrow street of large, single-story homes.

The two slain agents were identified as Benjamin Grogan, 53, an FBI man for nearly 20 years, and Gerald Dove, 30, an agent since 1982.

Benjamin Grogan, left, and Jerry Dove. 

Five more FBI agents who had responded almost immediately to a call for help were shot, three of them seriously injured. Agents John Hanlon, 48, who suffered a gunshot wound to his thigh, and Gordon McNeil, 43, shot in the chest, were at Baptist Hospital, where both were listed in serious condition.

At South Miami Hospital, agent Edmundo Mireles, 33, was in critical but stable condition with a bullet wound to his left forearm.

Two other agents -- Richard Manauzzi, 43, and Gilbert Orrantia, 27 -- were treated at Baptist for surface wounds and were released, the FBI said.

"This went down so fast it was unbelievable," said witness Billie Holloway, who lives down the block from the crime scene. "We heard a few shots and then a little quiet. We went outside and heard the car crash. Then the shots just opened up.

"Living in Miami, you know, Miami Vice, I figured it was another drug bust," Holloway said. "It's Miami. You just try to stay alive."

The FBI men were the 28th and 29th agents to be killed in the line of duty. The last time two FBI agents were killed in a single incident was in 1979.

In Washington, FBI Director William Webster called Friday the darkest day in the agency's history. Never before had so many agents been killed or wounded in one incident.

"Miami has had a very difficult time -- a lot of different problems," Webster said. But, he added, "I would certainly not characterize it as a place to stay away from."

Along 82nd Avenue, there were bullet holes everywhere, in the sides of cars, in the concrete wall behind the shopping center.

"Phil Donahue had just come on when it happened," said May Stemas, who lives nearby. "I thought it was a war."



Herald Staff Writer

One color of death was bright yellow.

Yellow were the police ribbons that stretched from tree to tree, to keep people away. The ribbons fluttered in the morning breeze, and crisscrossed in mock gaiety the Kendall neighborhood. Outside the ribbons, crowds stood and stared. On the inside, men with radios and clipboards and tape measures and cameras moved grimly from one corpse to the next. There were four corpses in all.

Yellow was the color of the plastic sheets that covered the two FBI agents, who lay dead in the shade of a black olive tree. Occasionally the breeze would lift the sheets, and a policeman or federal agent would hurry forward to cloak them again.

The dead killers lay bloody and uncovered.

Incredibly, seven agents had been shot here. It was the bloodiest day in the FBI's history. A federal prosecutor who knew the dead agents watched and wept. He was not alone.

From an elevated parking ramp, reporters, photographers, TV cameramen and dozens of bystanders looked down on the tableau, at the intersection of Southwest 82nd Avenue and 122nd Street. Construction workers drank beer and guessed about how it had happened. A lady shopper with an Instamatic snapped a picture.

It was a bright cloudless day, a day when all the colors of death were vivid.

The broad bloodstain in the middle of the road was already burgundy, turning to brown in the heat.

A shotgun lay nearby, five empty green shells shining like emeralds on the pavement. A few feet away was a black-barreled pistol and, beyond that, what looked like an automatic rifle.

During the chase, two cars had crunched into a bottle-brush tree, its blossoms crimson; beneath its outer branches were two cream-colored FBI Buicks, one pocked by bullet holes. The brake lights were still on.

Once all this had been noted and absorbed, there was little else to see. The shooting had lasted only minutes. It had been quiet for hours now, and still we stood and watched. The wounded were gone, the dead were silent.

Up the ramp came several Palmetto High School students, some skipping class, others taking an extra-long lunch break. None of them was clowning around, but the distance from the bodies made casual talk an easier thing.

A blond teen-ager in a sleeveless T-shirt watched for a few minutes, then turned to go. "Death in Miami," he said to some friends. "It's nice to know we live in such a nice city."

Another student, Mark Saymon, asked to borrow a photographer's telephoto lens, to get a closer look. He said this was his third shoot-out scene; the others were a bank holdup and a Farm Store robbery. "Nothing like this," Saymon said. "I can't believe they let that dude lie in the sun."

The dude was dead, of course. He was one of the suspects. Pot-bellied guy with black hair. He lay on his back. His left arm was taped where the paramedics had tried to get some fluids going before giving up; the chubby guy's clothes were soaked with too much blood. A man wearing rubber gloves fished through the dead man's pockets.

What grips onlookers at such times is the proximity of recent death. The danger is past, but the aftermath transfixes.

On television, blazing shoot-outs are followed by commercials. Real-life murder scenes do not dissolve so easily; not in the eye, not in the mind. The color of death is unforgettable.

There is also a ponderous ritual to investigation; the more victims, the longer it takes. On Friday the dead men lay where they fell for four hours.

Finally the killers were placed in the back of a light-blue van and hauled off to the medical examiner.

The agents were taken away in separate hearses.

The color of death was jet black.

In 2001 a portion of SW 120th Street was dedicated  
to the memory of Agents Jerry Dove and Benjamin Grogan.
(Click to enlarge.)


FBI.gov: FBI Miami Shooting, April 11, 1986

YouTube: FBI Training Video, Firefight & Personal Reflections

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