Gerald Dove

1986 FBI Miami shootout

The FBI Miami shootout was a gun battle that occurred on April 11, 1986 in Miami, Florida between multiple FBI agents and two heavily-armed and well-trained gunmen. The firefight claimed the lives of special agents Gerald Dove and Benjamin Grogan, as well as the two robbery suspects, William Russell Matix and Michael Platt. In addition, five other agents were severely injured during the gunfight.

The incident is infamous in FBI history and well-studied. Despite outnumbering the suspects 4 to 1, the agents found themselves pinned down by rifle fire and unable to respond effectively. Although both Matix and Platt were hit several times in the firefight, both fought on regardless and continued to injure and kill the officers. This led to the introduction of more powerful handguns to prevent a repeat of this action.

Background

The FBI agents were investigating a series of violent bank robberies and armored car heists over a period of six months, which had resulted in the death of one guard. They linked the robberies to two suspects, and had reason to believe they drove a 1979 Chevrolet Monte Carlo, a car they had stolen after shooting the owner multiple times and leaving him for dead. The identities of the two men remained unknown.

The men had met each other while serving in the U.S. Army; Matix had served in Military Police, while Platt had served in Special Forces. Both men had been previously married to women who had died under mysterious circumstances. Together they ran a landscaping business which they used as a front to launder their stolen money.

The shootout

On April 11 a team of FBI agents led by special agent Gordan McNeil manned ten cars on the lookout for the suspect vehicle. At about 9 A.M. agents Grogan and Dove spotted the vehicle, and began to follow it. Two other cars joined them, and eventually an attempt was made to conduct a felony traffic stop of the suspects' car, which was forced off the road in a collision with FBI cars driven by agents Grogan, John Hanlon and Dick Manauzzi, sending it slamming head on into a tree.

Immediately after being forced off the road, Platt began firing his Ruger Mini-14 .223 rifle from the car, while Matix fired a single blast from his Smith & Wesson M3000 12 gauge shotgun. Meanwhile, the initial collision that forced the suspects off the road caused some unforeseen problems for the agents. Just prior to ramming the Monte Carlo, agent Dick Manauzzi had pulled out his service revolver and placed it in his lap in anticipation of a shootout, but the force of the collision flung open his door and sent his weapon flying out of his lap. Before he could locate it he was struck by multiple rifle rounds and was effectively incapacitated. Agent John Hanlon also lost his primary .357 service revolver during the initial collision, though he was still able to fight with his Smith & Wesson Model 36 backup gun. Furthermore, the collision also knocked off agent Ben Grogan's eye glasses, making it difficult for him to see his targets.

Trapped in the Monte Carlo by cars on both sides blocking the front doors, Platt opened up on Agents Gordan McNeil and Edmundo Mireles by firing his Mini-14 across Matix's body through the driver side window, with the muzzle almost in Matix's face. Mireles was hit in the left arm, completely disabling it, while McNeil was shot through his right hand. However, McNeil still managed to fire five shots with his handgun into the Monte Carlo's windshield, hitting Matix with two rounds. Matix was apparently knocked unconscious by the hits and fired no more rounds for the rest of the fight.

Platt climbed out a car window and advanced on the agents, while continuing to fire. As he did so, he was struck by two 9 mm rounds, one from agent Jerry Dove, and the other from Agent Ron Risner, who along with agent Gilbert Orrantia, was shooting from a position of cover about five car lengths away. One round hit Platt underneath the armpit, while the other cut into his lung. The coroner who later examined Platt determined the lung shot was a fatal wound that would have eventually killed him even if he had received immediate medical treatment, but it did not stop him and he continued fighting with his rifle and a revolver, and caused agents more injuries, including a shot to the neck which left agent McNeill paralyzed. Another shot struck agent Dove's pistol, rendering it inoperative.

Military-trained, Platt aggressively advanced on Grogan and Dove's car, which they (so far uninjured) were using for cover. Reaching their position, he continued firing the rifle. Platt killed Grogan with a shot to the chest, shot agent Hanlon in the hand and pelvis, and then killed agent Dove with two shots to the head. Platt himself had already been hit six times at this point.

Platt entered Grogan and Dove's car, apparently attempting escape. He was joined by Matix, who had regained consciousness and had crawled unseen to Platt's position.

But they were stopped by Mireles, who, despite being seriously injured during the gunfight (his left arm was totally disabled after being struck by bullets from Platt's rifle), overcame his injuries by using his uninjured arm to cycle his pump shotgun one-handed, balance the gun on the bumper of his car, and fire repeated rounds at the vehicle's driver and passenger compartment, striking the suspects several times and preventing them from leaving the scene. In response, the badly wounded Platt stumbled out of the driver's seat with a revolver in his hand, limped over to Mireles, fired three rounds at close range, and then limped back into the driver's seat of the FBI Buick.

However, all three of his shots had missed. With his shotgun rounds expended, Mireles managed to rise to his feet, drew his service revolver, and advanced toward the vehicle where he killed both Matix and Platt by emptying his revolver into them at very close range. The shootout involved a total of 10 people: 2 suspects and 8 FBI Agents. Of the 10 participants, only one emerged from the battle unharmed.

Toxicology tests showed that the astounding abilities of Platt and Matix to fight through multiple traumatic gun shot wounds and continue to battle and attempt to escape were not achieved through any chemical means. Both of their bodies were completely drug- and alcohol-free at the time of their deaths.

Aftermath

The subsequent FBI investigation placed partial blame for the agent's deaths on the lack of stopping power exhibited by their service handguns. They soon began the search for a more powerful caliber and cartridge. Noting the difficulties of reloading a revolver while under fire, they specified that agents should be armed with semiautomatic handguns. The Smith & Wesson 1076, chambered for the powerful 10mm Auto round, was chosen as a direct result of the Miami shootout. The sharp recoil of the 10mm Auto later proved too much for most agents to control effectively, and a special reduced velocity loading of the 10 mm Auto round was developed, commonly referred to as the "10mm Lite" or "10mm FBI".

Soon thereafter, Smith and Wesson realized the long case of the 10mm Auto was not necessary to produce the reduced ballistics of the FBI load. Smith and Wesson developed a shorter cased cartridge based on the 10mm that would ultimately replace the 10mm as the primary FBI service cartridge, the .40 S&W. The .40 S&W became far more popular than its parent, the 10mm Auto, due to the ability to chamber the shorter cartridge in standard frame automatic pistols designed initially for the 9 mm Parabellum. Other than a .142" reduction in overall case length, resulting in less gunpowder capacity in the .40 S&W, the 10mm and .40 S&W are identical in projectile size, both using a .400" caliber bullet.

In addition to the problems with their handguns, other issues were brought up in the aftermath of the shooting. Despite being on the lookout for two violent felons who were known to use firearms during their crimes, only two of the FBI vehicles contained shotguns, and none of the agents were armed with rifles. Also, only two of the agents were wearing ballistic vests, and the armor they were wearing was standard light body armor, which is designed to protect against pistol rounds, not the .223 rounds fired by Platt's Mini-14 rifle. A better selection of firearms and body armor could have greatly aided the agents during the incident.

Agents

  • Richard Manauzzi (Lost control of weapon in the initial vehicle collision, no shots fired), Injured (unspecified injuries).
  • Gordon McNeill (S&W M19-3 .357 Magnum revolver, 6 rounds .38 Special +P fired), Seriously injured by .223 gunshot wounds to the right hand and neck
  • Edmundo Mireles (Remington M870 12 gauge shotgun, 5 rounds 00 buckshot fired, .357 Magnum revolver (make & model unknown), 6 rounds .38 Special +P fired), Seriously injured by a .223 gunshot wound to the left forearm.
  • Gilbert Orrantia (S&W (model unknown) .357 Magnum revolver, 12 rounds .38 Special +P fired) Injured by shrapnel and debris produced by a .223 bullet near miss.
  • John Hanlon (S&W M459 9mm pistol, 9 rounds fired), Seriously injured by .223 gunshot wounds to the right hand and groin.
  • Benjamin Grogan (S&W M459 9mm pistol, 9 rounds fired), Killed by a .223 gunshot wound to the chest.
  • Jerry Dove (S&W M459 9mm pistol, 20 rounds fired), Killed by two .223 gunshot wounds to the head.
  • Ron Risner (S&W M459 9mm pistol, 13-14 rounds fired, S&W (model unknown) .38 Special revolver, 1 round .38 Special +P fired), Uninjured.

Suspects

  • William Matix(S&W M3000 12 gauge shotgun, 1 round #6 shot fired), Killed after being shot a total of 6 times.
  • Michael Platt (Ruger Mini-14 .223 Remington carbine, at least 42 rounds fired, S&W M586 .357 Magnum revolver, 3 rounds fired, Dan Wesson .357 Magnum revolver, 3 rounds fired), Killed after being shot a total of 12 times.

Memorial

In 2001, the Village of Pinecrest, Florida, which incorporated in 1996, honored the two agents by co-designating a portion of Southwest 82nd Avenue as Agent Benjamin Grogan Avenue and Agent Jerry Dove Avenue. Street signs and a historical marker commemorate the naming of the roadway in honor of the two agents.

Weapons

Suspects

FBI

In popular media

  • The events leading up to and including the April 11 shootout were adapted into the NBC made-for-television movie, In The Line Of Duty: The FBI Murders in 1988, starring Michael Gross as William Matix and David Soul as Michael Platt. Ronny Cox acted as Ben Grogan, and Jerry Dove was played by Bruce Greenwood.
  • The incident is featured in the novel Unintended Consequences by John Ross.
  • The event is one of several shootouts documented by firearms instructor Massad Ayoob in his 1995 book, "The Ayoob Files: The Book".

See also

External links

References

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