Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Double manhunt in South Florida after shots fired at cops, home set ablaze

By Julia Bagg, Gilma Avalos and Steve Litz,

A manhunt was under way in South Florida early Wednesday for two suspects after shots were fired at police and a home was set ablaze during a narcotics investigation, authorities said.

A third suspect, Brian Kelly Howell, 29, was taken into custody Miami-Dade Police said, but Dell Peter DiGiovanni, 50, and Michael Steven DiGiovanni, 28, were still at large.

Police in West Kendall set up a perimeter from Miller Drive to 64th Avenue and from SW 142nd Avenue to SW 157th Avenue. They were warning all residents to stay indoors because the men were considered to be likely armed and dangerous.

Miami-Dade Police spokesman Alvaro Zabaleta said there's still a possibility that someone could be inside the house that was set on fire late Tuesday.

"We have not been able to enter or process the house itself because of the fact that it's still considered to be unsafe, fire has not been able to get to it because it's still too hot," Zabaleta said Wednesday.

Police said it wasn't immediately clear if all of the men shot at police, but the incident began at 15415 SW 57th St., when narcotics units were investigating a possible grow house at the address.

The suspects began firing at the officers, and police said they fired back and retreated for cover. At some point the suspects went inside and the home erupted into flames.

  • Brian Howell. Photo taken from an internal Miami-Dade police memo.
  • Dell Di'Giovanni. Photo taken from an internal Miami-Dade police memo.
  • Michael Di'Giovanni. Photo taken from an internal Miami-Dade police memo.

The three men subsequently fled the scene, police said.

"These individuals obviously attempted to kill an officer so the very minimum you're gonna have attempted murder on a law enforcement officer," Zabaleta said of the charges they'll face.

He said the DiGiovanni's are related but the exact nature of their relationship was unknown.

"It sounded like the world was ending because everybody was panicking, 'cause everybody heard the shootings,” said Rodrigo Ruez, who was minutes away from his home when he heard the gunshots.

Smoke billowed out of the burning home, and Miami-Dade Fire Rescue personnel waited in the area, ready to move in at a moment's notice.

Dozens of police officers were on the scene, some of them walking around with rifles.

Some West Kendall residents were kept away from their homes as police searched. Ashley Diaz, like dozens of people, could not get into her home.

She said she was coming back from Target when she found her way blocked, so she stopped at a gas station – where she had been ever since.

“We’re stuck. We can’t go that way, we can’t go that way,” Diaz said, pointing in opposite directions.

The perimeter mostly impacted two housing developments in the area – Lakes of the Meadows and Westwood Lakes.

"This is where I live, and it’s just not safe anymore," said displaced resident Anthony Guzman. "People have kids growing up here. It’s not right.”

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