Nearly 34 years ago on April 11th, 1986 at 9:30am eastern, one of the most infamous shootouts in the history of the United States and the FBI took place in an unincorporated part of Dade County Florida. The shootout took place after a crime spree involving two retired Army veterans who would eventually meet their end at the hands of the FBI in one of the most infamous law enforcement shootouts in national history. Today we’ll be breaking down the Miami-Dade Shootout.
5 Minutes and 145 Shots: Breaking Down the 1986 Miami Dade Shooting
Disclaimer: This article is not intended to sit in judgment of any party that was involved in this incident. The purpose of this article is to take the facts which have been presented to the public to show readers a clinical, unbiased, and truthful look at an unfortunate chain of events. Furthermore, there are some graphic images contained within this article.
From Service to Sinister Intent – THe Suspects
Before the infamous shootout that took place on April 11th, the two robbers, Michael Lee Platt and William Russel Matix had both served in the United States Army as military police as part of the 101st Airborn Division in Fort Campbell Kentucky. Both suspects were honorably discharged from the army with no apparent demerits on their records.
Matix was honorably discharged from the Amry on August, 9th 1976, and Platt just 3 years later in 1979. Both Matix and Platt were married multiple times before the robberies and subsequent shootout took place but it is unclear if any of the circumstances behind the deaths and suicide of either of the perpetrator’s previous spouses was because of their own actions or just a sad coincidence.
Both men had no criminal record before their crime spree which began with a single murder and robbery on October 4th, 1985 where young Emilio Briel was killed by the two men at a quarry at the edge of the Everglades that was used for target practice. It is here where Matix and Platt stole Emilio’s car and left him dead and missing until after the April 11th shooting. The two men stole Emilio’s car (1977 Chevrolet Monte Carlo) and firearm (listed as a .22 caliber rifle) which he was target shooting with at the quarry.
A String of Heists
With blood on their hands, Matix and Platt committed the first of several armed robberies using Briel’s stolen car as both an assault and getaway vehicle. Recovered FBI documents reveal four of the preceding robberies showing that these activities were not a one-off event but rather a perhaps pathological series of robberies/murders over the course of several months. Below is a brief description of some of the preceding robberies attributed to Matix and Platt.
- October 10th, 1985 – A Wells Fargo Armored Car serving a Winn Dixie was assaulted leaving one guard wounded by 12 gauge 00 buckshot while the assailant from the vehicle fired a handgun and “shoulder-fired” weapons from the getaway vehicle. The two other guards returned fire at the assailants and drove them off. No money was stolen, and the wounded guard later died of his injuries.
- November 8th, 1985 – A Professional Savings Bank was robbed of $41,469 contained within three Wells Fargo Armored Car Company money bags. The suspects were able to make off with the money and this crime was left unsolved until after the April 11th shooting. The robbery was made with the same set of handguns and “shoulder-fired” weapons” but no further details on the weapons used were made available.
- January 10th, 1986 – Another Armored Car is attacked by Platt and Matix with one of them blasting the guard with #7 shot as he opened the rear door. Both Platt and Matix then approached the wounded guard and executed him with a “military-type .223 caliber shoulder weapon” with witnesses describing either an AR-15 or Mini-14 style rifle (FBI file Miami-Shooting 4-11-86 Part 1 of 11 Page 19). The suspects made off with $54,000 in loot and were partially followed in a gold 1977 Chevrolet Monte Carlo till they switched over to a Ford Pickup and were lost shortly afterward.
- March 19th, 1986 – Platt and Matix robbed the Barnett Bank, 13593 South
Dixie Highway, Miami getting away with $8,338, this time in a black 1982 Monte Carlo which was stolen from another victim from the quarry who was out target shooting. However, despite being shot several times, the victim survived after being assaulted by Platt and Matix having his car, Smith & Wesson Model 14 revolver, and Marlin Model 60 stolen from him.
Despite these robberies and murders going on for months and over $100,000 stolen (worth over $250,000 today), none of Platt’s nor Matix’s spouses, tenants, or acquaintances ever suspected the men of any wrongdoing.
Chase Before The Shootout
The FBI began to investigate the string of robberies that were being committed in Dade county and sent out a total of 14 FBI Agents in 11 vehicles in order to stake out and search for the robbery suspects. The FBI didn’t have any idea who they were looking for but they did know to search for a black 1982 Monte Carlo based on the witness from the last robbery that took place on March 19th. Around 9:30 am, FBI Agents Grogan and Dove spotted the Monte Carlo and began to follow it.
It is suspected that Matix and Platt knew they were being followed and that they subsequently began driving on side roads in an attempt to lose the trailing FBI vehicles. Despite arguments to the contrary, the decision to make a “felony stop” was made and the FBI agents attempted to stop the vehicle. Several of the FBI vehicles and the suspects’ car collided with one another as the black Monte Carlo was forced off the Dade county roads and into a tree. It was at this point that the shooting began between 8 agents and the 2 suspects.
FBI AGent Armament
Below is a description of the armament that the FBI Agents engaged Matix and Platt with:
- Special Agent Jerry Dove: Smith & Wesson Model 459
- Special Agent Benjamin P. Grogan: Smith & Wesson 459
- Special Agent John F. Hanlon, Jr.: Smith & Wesson Model 459, Smith & Wesson 2 1/2-inch .38 caliber revolver
- Special Agent Richard A. Manauzzi: Smith & Wesson Service Revolver – Lost During collision – no shots fired
- Supervisory Special Agent Gordon G. McNeill: Smith & Wesson Model 19, 2-1/2-inch
- Special Agent Edmundo Mireles, JR.: Smith & Wesson Model 686
- Special Agent Gilbert M. Orrantia: Smith & Wesson Model 10 (according to FBI documents)
- Special Agent Ronald G. Risner: Smith & Wesson Model 459, Smith & Wesson Model 60
In addition to their issued and backup weapons, Agents McNeill and Mireles had Remington 870 Shotguns in their vehicles. Other firearms that were not present at the shooting were part of the stakeout operation and in the vehicles of other FBI agents.
Matix & Platt Armament
Matix and Platt carried superior armament to the FBI agents and also had military arms training. While it can be disputed how much of this training contributed to the results of the shootout, what can be said is that despite their superior numbers, Platt and Matix were able to square off against the 8 agents for 5 minutes before being taken down. Collectively Matix and Platt were armed with:
- Ruger Mini-14.223
- Smith & Wesson Model 3000 12-Gauge Pump-Action Shotgun (#6 shot allegedly used)
- Smith & Wesson Model 586
- Dan Wesson 357 Magnum Revolver
5 Minutes 145 Shots – The Shootout
The first hit of the gunfight supposedly came from Special Agent (SA) Grogan who struck Matix in the forearm as the latter leaned out of the vehicle to fire his shotgun at Grogan and SA Dove. Meanwhile, SA Manauzzi was hit on his back and on his head by a shotgun blast from Matix while Platt simultaneously fired his Mini-14 at SA Manauzzi who was struck and injured.
In the midst of gunfire, SSA McNeill began to fire his Model 10 revolver over the hood of the injured Manauzzi’s car and directly at Platt. Platt returned fire with the Mini-14 and struck McNeill. Platt then caught sight of Agent Mireles who was running across the street to join the gunfight. Platt opened fire and hit Mireles in his left forearm disabling it.
Agent McNeill continued to return fire with his service revolver and hit Matix in both the head and neck and was rendered unconscious temporarily. It was at this point Platt climbed out of the passenger side of the vehicle and was struck by fire coming from Agent Dove. These shots collapsed Platts right long and filled his chest cavity with over a liter of blood – this is the gunshot that was attributed to his eventual death.
Despite the injuries, Platt continued to return fire with both his revolver and rifle and was struck several more times in the process. Eventually, Platt injured Agent Orrantia and Agent McNeill with the latter collapsing from his injuries and becoming paralyzed for several hours. Agents Grogan, Hanlon, and Dove were in the midst of reloading their firearms and were unaware of Platt who had begun advancing on their position behind their vehicle. Hanlon was shot in the hand preventing him from reloading his revolver and Platt rounded the rear of their car and fatally shot Grogan in the chest, shot Hanlon in the groin, and shot Dove twice in the head. Despite being shot several times, Agent Hanlon went on to survive his injuries.
After this, Platt attempted to get away by entering Grogan and Dove’s car but was shot by the injured Agent Mireles who shot Platt with his Remington 870 shotgun using only one arm. These shots from Mireles hit Platt on both feet during which time Matix regained consciousness and joined Platt inside the car. Mireles attempted to shoot both suspects but landed no hits with his remaining shotgun rounds.
As Platt was attempting to start the now stolen FBI vehicle, agent Mireles drew his Smith & Wesson Model 686 revolver and advanced down the street towards Matix and Platt. Six shots were fired at the back of the vehicle with two rounds missing and three rounds striking Matix in the head and killing him. Mireles then advanced to the driver’s side door and pointed his revolver through the window and Shot Platt in the chest which bruised his spinal cord and ended the gunfight.
In the end, approximately 145 shots were fired in just under 5 minutes, four were dead, and five were injured with only one agent escaping unscathed by the intense street combat (Agent Risner). Toxicology reports performed on both Matix and Platt showed that they had no drugs of any type in their system at the time of the shootout. In total, William Matix was killed after being shot a total of six times while Michael Plat was killed after being shot 12 times.
The resultant FBI investigation into the shooting placed the deaths of the agents on a supposed lack of stopping power by the service handguns that were brought to the fight. Most of the agents were not carrying 9mm pistols but instead a mix of .357 Magnums and .38 Special revolvers.
It was the Miami Dade shootout that was the impetus for the FBI selecting the Smith & Wesson 1076 as their new service weapon. The semi-automatic pistol chambered in 10mm was thought to have better stopping power than previously issued service weapons but also proved to be more difficult to control for the agents and as such the .40 S&W round became popular with law-enforcement due to its less aggressive recoil.
Criticism has been leveled at the FBI for not equipping all the agents with protective ballistic vests despite the fact that they knew they were going after Dade county suspects who were always armed during their heists. Only two of the 8 agents involved in the firefight had any type of ballistic protection but none of the protection worn was designed to stop the .223 rifle rounds fired by Platt’s Mini-14. Another similar criticism of the situation is that none of the participating agents had rifles. However, five of the other vehicles that were involved in the operation but did not participate in the shootout contained more shotguns, MP-5 submachine guns, and M16 rifles in their trunks which would have probably changed the outcome of the shootout.
I hope this brief explanation of the infamous Miami Dade shooting has been both enlightening and educational. In my opinion, the Miami Dade shooting is almost on par with the equally infamous 1997 North Hollywood Bank Shootout in terms of their memorability. Shootings like the Miami Dade FBI shootout are interesting to study to get a glimpse into the doctrines and methods used by law enforcement throughout the history of our country. What infamous domestic battle would you like to see covered next?