MIAMI – A Florida bank robbery suspect led police on a wild chase Friday as he carjacked two vehicles at gunpoint, leaped into the Miami River and finally died in a hail of bullets after vowing not to be arrested easily, authorities said.
It began about 7 a.m. when FBI agents and Miami-Dade police officers went to the man's home north of the city to serve a warrant linked to the Sept. 29 robbery of a Wells Fargo bank branch, Justin Fleck, the FBI acting assistant special agent in charge, said at a news conference.
The suspect, identified by police as Ernesto Padron, 52, instead grabbed a handgun and fled on foot, eventually carjacking a brown BMW, authorities said. With officers in pursuit, Padron drove erratically through city streets and then ditched the BMW for a Mazda sport utility vehicle, which he also carjacked by waving a gun in the female driver's face.
That driver, Minerva Castellano, told local news outlets she was on her way to work at the Veterans Administration Hospital when Padron put a gun to her face and told her to get out.
"He said 'Get the f--- out of the car right now or I will shoot you'. I'm thinking, I wasn't really scared at the moment because I'm thinking it's an undercover cop because I saw cops all over the place. I thought he was an undercover cop that needed my car. It took me a while to get out, I had to unstrap the seatbelt. Luckily, I had my purse with me and I ran out," she said.
Police said Padron eventually bailed out of Castellano's SUV and jumped into the Miami River. Officers from various departments — some armed with assault rifles — engaged him in a standoff under a bridge, trying to convince him to surrender, according to police.
Video footage showed the bald man bobbing in neck-deep water and clinging to a ledge under the bridge, frequently pointing at officers and shaking his head.
Miami-Dade Police Director Juan Perez told reporters Padron made threatening comments toward law enforcement, saying he "will not go down easy."
"Our hostage negotiators did begin to communicate with the individual, who was still armed at the time," Perez added.
The standoff included some officers in police boats.
Authorities said officers attempted to take Padron into custody about 9:30 a.m., but he refused to drop his weapon and was shot and killed. Police said as many as nine officers from two departments fired their weapons.
No officers were injured. The man died at the scene.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is investigating the shooting.
Follow Curt Anderson on Twitter: http://twitter.com/Miamicurt