Four Florida officers indicted for fatal 2019 shootout with robbers, resulting in deaths of UPS driver and bystander

Four Florida police officers have found themselves embroiled in a legal battle after being indicted for manslaughter in connection with a tragic 2019 shootout on a bustling rush-hour street in Fort Lauderdale that claimed the lives of a hijacked UPS driver and an innocent passerby. The grand jury charged Miami-Dade County officer Rodolfo Mirabal, 39, with two counts of manslaughter with a firearm for the deaths of 27-year-old UPS driver Frank Ordonez and Richard Cutshaw, a 70-year-old union negotiator who was driving in the vicinity. Additionally, officers Jose Mateo, 32, Richard Santiesteban, 33, and Leslie Lee, 57, were also indicted for manslaughter with a firearm in connection with Ordonez’s death, while they were not charged in relation to Cutshaw’s tragic demise.

The gravity of the situation was underscored by the fact that none of the officers faced charges for the deaths of the hijackers, 41-year-old Lamar Alexander and Ronnie Jerome Hill. Mateo and Mirabal still serve within the ranks of the Miami-Dade police force, while Lee retired three years ago and Santiesteban was dismissed, as per reports by the Miami Herald. The legal implications of the indictments loom large, as under Florida law, manslaughter is characterized as an unlawful killing that occurs due to “culpable negligence,” which refers to an act displaying “a wanton or reckless disregard for human life.” If convicted, the officers could potentially face a maximum sentence of 30 years, although it is noted that as first-time offenders, such a severe outcome is unlikely.

The unfolding sequence of events saw the officers voluntarily surrender themselves to the Broward Sheriff’s Office over the course of Friday and Saturday, subsequently being released without the imposition of bail. The indictments themselves were issued more than a week prior, yet were kept under wraps until the officers’ surrender, with news of the legal proceedings prematurely disseminated on Monday night. The culmination of these events was the culmination of a meticulous four-year investigation undertaken by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

The shootout in question had unfolded amidst the chaos of rush hour on a major street in suburban Fort Lauderdale, following a prolonged pursuit involving multiple law enforcement agencies. The scene was rife with tension as around 20 officers were present, with the exact number of those who opened fire on the hijackers remaining undisclosed. Broward State Attorney Harold Pryor emphasized the significance of the protracted state inquiry and the ensuing grand jury deliberations in providing closure to the victims’ families and the wider community, highlighting the weighty responsibility borne by police officers when deciding whether to employ deadly force.

Pryor refrained from divulging specific details regarding how the actions of the indicted officers diverged from their counterparts, opting for discretion in his statements. Notably, no legal representation for the officers has been formally documented in court records, while the South Florida Police Benevolent Association, the officers’ union, remained reticent in the wake of the developments. The union had previously expressed profound disappointment over the indictments, casting a shadow of uncertainty over law enforcement practices in Broward County.

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