June 30, 2011 — Miami
Miami-Dade police had been tracking a crew of violent home-invasion robbers.
Robbery detectives tricked the three men into believing that there was a stash of marijuana inside a house owned by the county in a rural area called the Redland.
Confidential informant Rosendo Betancourt helped lure Roger Gonzalez-Valdez Sr., Jorge Lemus and Antonio Andrew to the scene around 8:20 p.m. Almost immediately the plan to arrest them went sour. The gang became suspicious and scattered, forcing detectives to make the arrests outside. Read more
In the confusion and the darkness, members of the Special Response Team and detectives shot and killed all of the would-be robbers and informant Betancourt.
Betancourt was not supposed to go on the raid, but police continued with the operation anyway. During the arrests, Betancourt dropped his gun and lay down on the ground. Sgt. Manuel Malgor ordered him to roll over on his back. Malgor and others fired when, he said, Betancourt reached for a gun in his waistband.
Gonzalez-Valdez died when four officers fired more than 50 rounds as he lay curled up under a tree. One officer said he believed the man was reaching for a gun, although by that time he had ditched his weapon. A black, hand-held radio was found near the body.
Andrew was shot as he tried to escape through a hole in the fence. Officers said they believed he was reaching for his waistband.
Lemus was killed after he refused to drop his weapon or surrender.
Roger Valdez Jr., Gonzalez's son, was in the getaway car and was sentenced on federal charges to more than 27 years in prison.
In 2014, prosecutors declared Sgt. Jose Gonzalez' shooting of Jorge Lemus justified.
That was not the case with the other shootings. However they felt that they could not bring charges against the other officers. The operation had obvious flaws and that many of the officers' actions were "unusual, counter-intuitive, suspicious . . . disturbing," prosecutors said.
They called Betancourt's death "greatly disturbing," but could not prove Sgt. Malgor was not in fear of his life. They commented that Betancourt could have been handcuffed while he was lying on his belly. Police said they later determined that Betancourt owed the group money and may have participated in earlier robberies.
As for Gonzalez-Valdez, they found it "difficult to comprehend why four officers, over a time span of approximately 10 seconds, fired in excess of 50 rounds, at someone laying just a few feet in front of them." In June 2015, Miami-Dade County agreed to pay Betancourt's family $700,000. That was in addition to a total of $600,000 already paid to the relatives of the three robbers.
This was the 65th police shooting in Florida in 2011.
10 ways this case compares to others
- Officer Villa was involved in one other shooting from 2009 to 2014. Eighty-five officers were involved in more than one shooting during that time period.
- Officer Alech was involved in two other shootings from 2009 to 2014. Only 10 officers were involved in more than two shootings in that time period.
- Officer Cruz was involved in two other shootings from 2009 to 2014. Only 10 officers were involved in more than two shootings in that time period.
- Officer Ferguson was involved in one other shooting from 2009 to 2014. Eighty-five officers were involved in more than one shooting during that time period.
- A SWAT or tactical team was involved in the incident. Tactical teams are involved in 7 percent of police shootings.
- Police thought Gonzalez-Valdez, who was unarmed, was reaching for a weapon before shooting him. Thirty-eight unarmed people were shot when police said they saw them reach for something.
- Andrew, Betancourt, Gonzalez-Valdez and Lemus were shot during an undercover sting. That was true in less than four percent of cases.
- Lemus was armed with a firearm. That’s true of almost half the people shot.
- Andrew, Gonzalez-Valdez and Lemus were suspected of being involved in an armed robbery. That's true in 1 of every 9 police .
- A civil lawsuit was filed in response to Andrew, Betancourt, Gonzalez-Valdez and Lemus's shooting. Ninety other cases led to lawsuits.