HALLANDALE BEACH — Hallandale Beach police Friday identified three officers and the shoplifting suspect who was shot dead the previous night.
Hallandale Beach Police Capt. Sonia Quinones said Eduardo Prieto, 32, of Hialeah, was shot by the "highly trained" officers who have all served on the department's SWAT team.
They are: Supervising officers Sgt. Timothy Church, 40, who has served with the agency since 1996, and Sgt. Brian Hubbert, 42, who joined the agency a year later; and Officer Raymond Buckley, 43, with the department since 2000.
They were placed on administrative leave, with pay, until the investigation is completed, Quinones said.
According to Quinones, the incident began when officers received a call at 5:59 p.m. Thursday from a police dispatcher about an armed robbery in progress at a Walmart store at 2551 E. Hallandale Beach Blvd.
"We get a call that the suspect was armed with a knife, then it was updated by the dispatcher that he was armed with a knife and a gun," Quinones said Friday.
After being confronted by a Walmart security guard who suspected the theft of DVDs and clothing, Prieto showed a knife before fleeing the business in a silver Lexus SUV, Quinones said.
"Our officers locate the vehicle and follow it to where it came into 124 S. Federal Highway, at Acquo 124 Restaurant," Quinones said. "At that point is where our officers perceived a threat and were forced to fire on the suspect."
Prieto had driven about three miles west and south from the store to the restaurant before he was fatally wounded.
Comedian Pat Cooper, 83, said he was enjoying a plate of veal parmigiana at Acquo 124 when he witnessed the police shooting through the restaurant window.
"I was scared as hell," Cooper said. "I wanted to cry to see something like that happening. When you hear firing from a gun, it terrifies you. It's no joke. I'm still nervous about it."
"Five cops were telling this guy to get out of the car, repeatedly," said Cooper. "He put his hands out and he had something in his hand. And there were four shots."
Cooper called the incident "a sad thing to see."
"They killed him," he said. "But you can't blame the cops."
He called the officers "heroes."
"They put their lives on the line and walked right up to that car," Cooper said. "These police officers have families. They can't be playing games. These cops should be kissed and hugged."
Afterward, he said the shooting affected the officers as well as the civilians who witnessed it.
"The cops all felt bad," said Cooper, who still performs comedy and has ties to Fort Lauderdale and New York.
An autopsy was performed by the Broward Medical Examiner's office Friday morning, Quinones said, and fingerprints were taken to help detectives identify him. Prieto's identity was made public at 6 p.m. Friday, after his family was notified.
Court records show Prieto was a registered sex offender with convictions for fondling children, lewd and lascivious assault, drug possession and failing to notify police when he changed addresses as required of all registered sex offenders. His arrest record dates back to 1998.
The police captain said detectives were "still trying to get statements from all three officers" about exactly what happened during the shooting.
"Our officers notified radio dispatch of shots fired," she said, but investigators did not know if the suspect possessed a firearm because his vehicle was sealed and taken away for processing by Broward Sheriff's crime scene investigators.
"Our detectives have not been able to comb the vehicle to see if a gun was inside," Quinones said.
The incident tied up southbound traffic on Federal Highway for several hours between East Hallandale Beach Boulevard and Southeast 3rd Street. ..Source.. by Linda Trischitta and Wayne K. Roustan, Sun Sentinel