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In UPS-hijacking gun battle in Florida that killed two, nearly 200 shots were fired

Two armed robbers who had hijacked a UPS truck in South Florida got into a firefight with at least 21 police officers. At the end, the UPS driver and a 70-year-old bystander were dead.
IMAGE: Police pursuit in South Florida
Police investigate after a long pursuit thaty followed an armed robbery at a jewelry shop on the Miracle Mile in Coral Gables, Florida, on Thursday, Dec. 5, 2019.NBC Miami

Nearly 200 shots were fired during a gun battle between police and robbery suspects in South Florida earlier this month that ended in the deaths of a UPS driver who had been taken hostage and a 70-year-old bystander, state officials said Wednesday.

The Dec. 5 gun battle between two suspected jewelry store robbers and at least 21 police officers left 195 shell casings at the scene in Miramar, according to Florida Law Enforcement Department Special Agent Troy Walker's account to the Miami-Dade Community Relations Board’s Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Committee on Wednesday.

"We have recovered thus far thousands of hours of videos, so you can imagine the mammoth (task that it) is to review every single video and to ensure we don’t miss anything," Walker told the board.

It wasn't clear how many shots were fired by police officers or the suspects, a spokeswoman for the state Law Enforcment Department said Thursday.

The shootout came after Lamar Alexander and Ronnie Jerome Hill tried to rob Regent Jewelers in Coral Gables, police said. The suspects exchanged gunfire with the jewelry store's owner before they hijacked a nearby UPS truck, taking the driver, Frank Ordonez as hostage, officials said.

An ensuing 20-mile chase ended in the firefight in Miramar in Broward County. In the end, Ordonez; motorist Richard Cutshaw, 70; and the two robbers were dead.

Investigators haven't said whether the bullets that killed Ordonez and Cutshaw were fired by police or suspects.

"I spoke with the families about the autopsy, but I did not provide them with details because, again, I think it would be premature on my part to share speculative information as opposed to facts," Walker told the community-relations board.

Some of the officers involved in the firefight were members of the Miami-Dade Police Department's Priority Response Team, NBC Miami reported. The elite team was formed to deal with active shooters in the wake of the 2018 mass shooting and murder at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

Cutshaw's loved ones, who attended a memorial for him Wednesday, still can't fathom how he died.

"We know that it happened. But you wake up every morning, you think about how it happened and you just can't believe it," Tom Cutshaw said of his slain brother.

Ordoñez's mother, Luz Apolinario, told Telemundo in an interview in Spanish that words could not describe her feelings about her son's death.

"I can't believe they killed my son. I came to this country for a better life, not for my son to be killed," she said in Spanish.

Apolinario, who immigrated to the U.S. from Ecuador, said her 27-year-old son was a father of two and had just started driving a new route when he was killed.