30 years ago, an event happened which forever changed American policing- the Miami FBI shootout. Those involved have long since retired, as have most of those working at the time, however their actions that day continue to impact how and why we do our jobs today.
April 11, 1986: FBI agents assigned to the Miami Field Office were working a rolling stakeout in search of a stolen Monte Carlo, believed to be in the possession of two serial bank robbers who had been terrorizing the Miami-Dade area for several months. Although a total of 14 agents were involved in the detail, only eight of these agents would be involved in the eventual shoot out. These eight agents were armed with 2 Remington 870 shotguns, 3 S&W Model 459 9mm pistols and 3 standard issue S&W revolvers. Two agents were also armed with backup revolvers. The two suspects, both prior service military veterans, were outfitted with 2 Ruger Mini-14s, 2 .357 revolvers and a 12 gauge shotgun. In the course of only 5 minutes, almost 145 rounds would be fired – two agents were killed along with both suspects and only one agent would survive the incident without injury.
Over the following months, the FBI would conduct an extensive review of the incident, including the actions of both the agents and suspects. It was the findings of this review which would change American policing almost overnight.
- The standard issue .357 revolvers did not possess the necessary stopping power- despite being a longtime favorite among law enforcement professionals and standard issue for the FBI. The revolvers carried by the majority of agents involved were unsuccessful in stopping the determined suspects. Both suspects were shot multiple times (one 6 times, the other 12 times) and autopsies would determine neither was under the influence of controlled substances – they were simply determined to survive. Semi-automatic pistols would soon replace the revolver as the standard issue police sidearm and the search for a better round would lead to the development of the .40 S&W.
- Additional long guns needed- only two of the agents involved were equipped with long guns, in this case 12 gauge shotguns. Long guns, both shotguns and rifles, would soon find their way into cruisers as a daily carry item rather than on an as needed basis.
- Range training to match real world scenarios – some of the agents involved were found with spent brass in their pockets, a result of years of range time which taught them to secure the brass following a reload. This might have been an efficient means of keeping the range clean, but it leads to slower reloads during a fast paced, life or death gun battle. Recruits would soon be told to let brass lay as it falls rather than waste time and energy collecting it.
- Body armor needed – as with the shotguns, only two agents were wearing soft body armor, even though the detail involved searching for armed, violent felons. Again, this would lead to a wider use of soft body armor and eventually adopting it as a piece of standard issue equipment. Because of the threat from the Ruger Mini-14s, heavier armored plates would also start being issued to those other than tactical units.
No matter how you spin it, the events of April 11, 1986 were tragic and resulted in the deaths of two brave agents. Although the lessons learned that day have undoubtedly saved countless officers lives in the 30 years since, that does not lessen the price which was paid. All we can do now is hope that future lessons will be learned in the classroom and on the practice range rather than on the streets. Rest in Peace Agents Jerry Dove and Ben Grogan, End of Watch 04/11/1986.
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.