The FBI Dadeland Shootout: Hero Agent Ed Mireles Speaks

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Situation

The deadliest shootout in FBI’s history teaches eternal lessons, some only coming to light now in detail.

Lesson

Tactics, training, mindset and equipment all come together in complicated and sometimes unpredictable puzzles.

The most thoroughly studied gunfight of the 20th Century occurred on 4/11/86 in the Dadeland area of Miami. Michael Platt, armed with a stolen Ruger Mini-14, accompanied by William Matix, murdered Ben Grogan and Jerry Dove, crippled for life Edmundo Mireles, John “Jake” Hanlon and Gordon McNeill and wounded Gilbert Orrantia and Richard Manauzzi, all of the FBI. Ron Risner was the only agent involved who was not hit. Most of the agents were able to return fire, several scoring hits, but at the end of the gunfight it was Special Agent Edmundo Mireles who killed the two cop-killers.

Mireles, now 65 and retired, has written a new book about it, modestly titled FBI Miami Firefight co-authored by his wife Elizabeth, who adds important perspectives. Regular American Handgunner readers remember the incident has been written up here multiple times as new information on it became available. Those unfamiliar with the details can find them at places like my book Ayoob Files (Amazon), my podcast interview with retired Special Agent Hanlon at ProArmsPodcast.com and in Dr. French Anderson’s book

Pre-Shootout Injury

Mireles relates, Unbeknownst to me, Manauzzi had pulled up right behind the Monte Carlo to fill the gap left by Jake when he pulled our car out of line. Manauzzi closed the gap and ended up right behind the robbers’ car. We had the Monte Carlo boxed in: Ben’s car in the front, Jake and I blocking on the left side, and Manauzzi blocking from the rear. Manauzzi saw the passenger, Platt, raising a long-barreled weapon and aiming it in the direction of Jake and me. I never saw this because I was so focused on the driver. It might be hard to believe, but I never saw the passenger.

What happened next saved Mireles’ and Hanlon’s lives. Writes Ed, Manauzzi revved up his car and rammed the Monte Carlo from behind to take their attention off of us. This jolted the robbers and distracted them. Our car was exerting hard pressure to the right trying to force the robbers off the road to the right. The Monte Carlo was trying to counter that force by steering hard to the left. When Manauzzi crashed the Monte Carlo from the rear, it propelled the robbers’ car forward. All resistance between our Plymouth and the Monte Carlo abruptly ceased. As a result, we were catapulted into a hard right turn that landed us on the concrete wall. It was like magic. One second I was glaring at Matix, and the next second my face was smashed up against the windshield staring at a concrete wall.

The Un-Mentioned Wound

Everyone who has studied this incident knows of Mireles’ arm wound that left him fighting as a one-armed man. Few know of his second, perhaps more life-threatening gunshot wound. Mireles explains, Platt kept shooting and moving. He fired several shots in the direction of Gilbert and Ron across the street. As Gilbert was sitting in the driver’s seat, he heard the clanging of metal as bullets struck the car. Gilbert had fired six shots and as he was reloading, the car that he and Ron were in continued to receive incoming gunfire. A bullet hit the front windshield of the car right above the dashboard. A second bullet hit the car and came through the dashboard and peppered Gilbert with fragments. He ducked down for better cover, but he had been hit in the head and left arm with fragment and was very lucky not to be temporarily or permanently blinded by those fragments. He was wounded, but continued to stay focused. After his reload, he fired six more shots.

Gilbert grabbed a spare box of ammo from his glove box and spilled several rounds into his hand. Bullets continued to ding the car. By the time Gilbert finished his second reload, Platt had moved away from where he had been crouching. Gilbert fired a total of 12 shots. Ron, who was on the passenger side of the car behind the engine block, was armed with a semi-automatic pistol. He fired between 24 and 25 shots. However, crime scene units only found seven or eight of his shell casings.


I was still down beside Manauzzis’s car scanning for a threat. I could sense more than hear that the pattern of the shooting had shifted. Unknown to me, this was caused by Platt’s escape out of the Monte Carlo. As I scanned, I noticed something flash out of the corner of my left eye, movement of some kind. I quickly looked to the left. It was gone. I scanned to the right and again saw movement to my left. I immediately looked again but saw nothing. Then I saw it again, except I focused more closely this time; it seemed to be flying up and over past my feet and it was certainly red. The realization started to sink in: That flying red “object” was blood coming from somewhere on my head or chest. I got a very bad feeling. Every time my heart beat, my blood was being pumped eight to 10 feet out, up, and over my feet. Arterial bleeding. I was not having a good day, not a good day at all. I became very fearful at that point, because after all it was a “head” wound and I could not see it. Arterial bleeding in the movies can be frightening, but watching your body pump out your own blood definitely is horrifying. It really does squirt out of your body every time your heart beats. This was not a horror movie. For those of us that lived those moments, it was worse.

I figured that as disoriented as I felt and the way my ears were ringing, I must have had the left side of my forehead blown off. I placed the shotgun across my chest the same way I had done before and moved my right hand up to check my forehead. I expected to feel mush but instead I felt bone. However, when I pulled my hand away I saw blood on it and I could still see the arterial squirting of blood coming from my head. I placed my palm flat on my left temple area and I saw lots of blood on my hand. I felt my skull was still intact and did not feel any holes or soft mushy spots where there shouldn’t have been any. As I fiddled around with the area, I was inadvertently applying pressure to the wound. Pure dumb luck must have somehow caused a flap of skin and scalp to cover the wound. That stemmed the flow of arterial bleeding to a more manageable slow bleeding because the arterial spray stopped.

What must have happened was that a projectile, a rifle bullet or a large fragment, had hit me on the left side of my forehead. The bullet traveled along my skull from the front of my hairline to the rear and stopped or exited above my left ear. As it traversed, it severed my left temporal artery. It would continue to bleed until my blood pressure dropped too low or maybe until I just ran out of blood, but the bleeding slowed. I had one intrusive thought about this: Oh no, I’m going to look deformed! Instinctively I figured that I could survive my injury; after all, I was thinking and reasoning in the middle of a shootout. It sounds counter-intuitive, but it was accurate. I knew I would be okay, at least for a while. I took up the shotgun and continued to scan for threats, ready to fight for my life.

Playing Hurt

Though the nor-epinephrine was staving off the pain, Mireles had to fight through a profound and rapidly increasing physical debilitation from what were now three serious injuries, the head trauma from the crash and his head and arm wounds. He explains in the book, I was still where I had fallen, scanning for targets and waiting for help, thinking, When the hell is this thing going to be over? I was fearful, but not to the point of paralysis. I knew fear was good, paralysis was death. I had a vague idea where Gilbert and Ron were situated across the street. It was indeed my lucky day because from what I could tell, Gilbert and Ron were positioned to provide covering fire for me if I needed it. Like two guardian angels with guns. They were in the right place and had the angle to cover my ass. Knowing this helped to allay some of my fear.

There was still a lot of gunfire going on. My hearing had gone to hell and I still had a terrible ringing in my ears. I started to feel shock setting into my body, and I was losing consciousness and that scared me the most. If I passed out I would not know what was going on; someone could simply walk up to me and shoot me in the head and I would never know it. I could taste and smell the blood that soaked my face, scalp, neck, chest, and left arm. It was in my eyes, my nostrils, and my mouth. I was covered in fresh blood, sticky drying blood, and dry blood flaking off of me, all at the same time. I felt tired and sleepy, and had developed a terrible thirst. I was afraid that I might pass out. Although I had my two guardian angels across the street to cover my butt, I did not want to lose consciousness while there was still a lot of gunfire going on.

Darkness started to close in from around the outside of my field of vision, and my ability to see was reduced to about half of what it would normally be. As the gunfire continued, I decided to move around Gordon’s car to investigate that side of the scene. This move would also put more cars between the Monte Carlo and me. I would still have covering fire from Gilbert and Ron. I started to use my shoulders and heels to crawl on my back. I would stretch one shoulder up and then the other. I also used my heels to push myself up in the direction that I wanted to move. I moved as fast as a slug on a good day, but I made progress. Slowly and steadily, I moved to the rear of Gordon’s car. As I slowly crawled on my back, my shattered arm was dragged on the ground and I left a trail of blood in the dirt. Additionally dragging my arm on the ground got lots of dirt in my wounds. Human tissue is elastic, even though I did not look at my arm at that time, I imagined as I dragged it around, that the tissue would stretch and snap back like a rubber band. I did not feel any pain which, in and of itself, was also weird. It was getting darker and darker. Hail Mary, full of grace!

I had to keep on moving, stay focused on the gunfire and on the task at hand. If I did not focus on doing something I would focus on the darkness. My heart was already starting to fill with dread and my mind with thoughts that I may not survive the morning. My arterial squirting had stopped, but I could still feel my head bleeding. Blood was trickling into my eyes, making it hard to see. I tasted the blood as it dripped down my face. The smell and taste of my blood and the darkness closing in on me magnified the effect of danger and fear. Death was personified into a very real entity and it was lurking near. I prayed and begged for God’s mercy and help even harder. Move, move an inch at a time.

One-Handed Pump Gun

As the gun battle roared to its conclusion, Mireles finally found himself in position to engage the two cop-killers, but his Remington 870 slide-action shotgun was obviously a two-handed weapon and he only had one functioning arm and hand left. He had not been taught one-handed emergency manipulation. He explains it in more detail in his new book: I peeked slowly out to scan the area and I was shocked by what I saw: Platt and Matix were in Ben’s car.

I thought it was magic. It had only taken me a few seconds to crawl around the back of the car and sit up. In reality, it had not. I was blacking out and losing all reference of time. Either Platt had gone forward and assisted Matix out of the Monte Carlo, or Matix had gotten out of the Monte Carlo and walked over to Ben’s car under his own power. No one is certain how they got to Ben’s car. Platt was in the driver’s seat and Matix was in the passenger seat. They even had the presence of mind to bring their gear. When I saw them, Platt was looking at the steering column and Matix was leaning over from the passenger side and was looking at it too. They were fiddling around with the steering wheel or gearshift. Then it hit me: They were trying to drive away, trying to escape. There was only one way they could go and that was to back the car up. If they backed up they would run over (downed Agents) Jerry (Dove), Ben (Grogan), and Jake (Hanlon).

Ed explains what he did next in detail: While I was still in a sitting position behind Gordon’s car, I rolled over slightly on my left side. I brought my shotgun up and aimed it one-handed at Platt through the driver’s side window of Ben’s car. Platt and Matix were sitting almost straight up in their seats. As I brought the weapon up I knew I had to steady it somehow. I saw the lip of the rear bumper and the plan came together as if I had designed it that way. I placed the upper stock, the foregrip of the shotgun, on the lip of the bumper. All I had to do was line up the sights and press the trigger. The only problem was that the effects of my blood loss and shock were getting worse and worse. I was sliding in and out of consciousness, my vision was down to a pinpoint, I was dying of thirst, and I was getting cold. I could not figure out how I could feel so cold when the day started out bright and sunny. Maybe I didn’t want to know. The stock around the trigger-guard felt smooth as it always did, but it also felt sticky. It had to be the sweat and blood on my right palm. This situation would make anyone sweat; the blood was optional.

I lined up the sights on Platt, steadied them, and fired my shotgun one-handed. The recoil was minimal and there was no sound. No sound, that was odd! Instantaneously, I saw where my round had hit, down and to the left. It hit the left front quarter panel next to the driver’s door. “#[email protected]&%*!” I had missed! In spite of the circumstances, I was very angry at myself. A new problem occurred: How could I chamber another shotgun shell with only one working hand? When I had fired the shotgun, the recoil of the shotgun pushed the right side of my body and my arm slightly backward. That inspired a solution. It was like magic; my mind was reeling with thoughts and fears, but the creative part, the complex problem-solving part, which was still in there, running around inside my skull like a scared rabbit under the volcanic eruption and lava flow of anger. I let the shotgun slide through my right hand until I was holding it by the foreend, with the lower buttstock of the shotgun on the ground. Using my thighs to grip and secure the shotgun, I used my right hand to “rack” another round into the chamber. I then repositioned my right hand back down on the trigger-guard, rolled to my left side, placed the shotgun on the lip of the bumper again, and aimed for a second shot.

I lined up the sights on Platt again. He was still sitting up, fairly straight in the driver’s seat. He made a lovely target. I fired a second time. Again, the recoil of the shotgun was minimal and there was no sound. I had aimed at a point where the bottom of the car door window met the doorframe. I saw where the round went and this shot was immediate gratification. Platt recoiled from what appeared to be a full shotgun blast to his chest and head. It appeared that Platt was down and out for good. The window had exploded into him; it had been a beautiful thing, just like in a movie, all in slow motion so I could savor the moment!

I would later learn that Platt had miraculous luck, too, because not one pellet struck him. It had just been the window glass that had stunned him and knocked him back.

I let the recoil work for me again and went back to a full sitting position just as I had done the first time. I “racked” and reloaded another shotgun round into the chamber again using the same one-handed drill that I had used previously.

Meanwhile, some detached, screwed-up part of my personality was laughing insanely. I had to be going insane, if it was possible to go further into insanity than I already was at that moment. Once more unto the breach my friends, once more! I laughed and thought “breach” and for some reason I thought that was hilarious. I thought, Who’s in the breach now, me or them? I felt worse than before. Periods of darkness would close in on me, but I had the hot blaze of primordial rage and payback to keep me focused, at least for a while longer.

After I racked another round into the chamber, I brought the shotgun up again and placed it on the lip of the bumper. The stock of the shotgun did not feel smooth anymore; it felt sticky and gooey. I looked for the passenger. Matix was no dummy. When he saw Platt knocked back by the shotgun blast he had gotten down behind the dashboard. I could only see his head through the front windshield. I started to aim at Matix but I knew I had a very low probability of hitting him. This was due to the severe angle of attack from me to the car and the angle of the windshield going up and down. I still had the presence of mind to calculate angles to the target like a billiards shot. Matix was looking around, but I don’t think he knew where I was. I started to think, which with all the blood loss and shock, was not easy. I could get up and charge the car. No, I did not want to do that, only a true madman would leave cover and charge. Besides, how would I rack the action on the shotgun if I could not use my legs to steady and secure it?

Killing The Killers

When his shotgun ran empty, Mireles forced himself to his feet, drew his Smith & Wesson 686 revolver from its hip holster, and staggered toward the G-car turned getaway car with the gun extended right-handed. He remembers, My first shot at Platt missed. There was no sound and no recoil from my revolver. I was losing all external stimuli; it was all internal now. It was like running on emergency battery power and I only had myself to talk to. My whole universe, my whole existence, my whole reason for being at that point in time was to focus the front sight of my revolver on the bastards in the compartment of Ben’s car. Focus it on Platt and Matix and destroy them at all costs, to include my life. I saw exactly where my missed shot had gone. My perception made it appear that I was shooting at a target 25 yards away. In reality, my first shot was from only about 10 yards away. My mouth was bone dry; my sight picture was on and off as spots of darkness flashed in and out of my vision. I felt terribly fatigued and tired but I still howled in pure rage. “I have you now! I have you now! You’ll pay for killing them!” I was closing the distance just like in the military: Through fire and maneuver, close with the enemy and destroy him.

I wanted to close the distance, so I took two more steps towards Platt and Matix and set my one-handed position. I aimed at Platt’s face and fired from a distance of eight yards. Again, there was no sound and no recoil. I saw the hit on the right side of Platt’s forehead. His head rocked back in a violent fashion. I felt the joy, the pure lustful joy of payback. I shot Platt for killing Jerry, Ben, and Jake.

It was Matix that I was worried about. The shotgun blasts had not penetrated the windshield so he was probably still alive. I took two more steps forward, six yards out, set my position again, aimed at Matix’s chest and head area, and fired. The revolver seemed to flutter but that was all, there was no sound. I saw him jerk. My primordial bloodlust heightened. Although my wounds and shock were altering my perception, I still saw the hit on Matix. Even through the blackness I saw it was a good hit. “You killed them, but I have you now, I have you, I’ll kill you, I’ll see you in hell!” The round hit him in the face. The bullet hit him about an inch to the right of his nose and entered his head.

I took two more steps forward, now four yards from the car. My whole universe centered on the sights of my revolver and the compartment of the car. Nothing else mattered. I was fading away fast; I could feel my life force, my spirit, slipping away. I looked; I had forgotten what a beautiful bright sunny day it was. Platt, Matix, and I would all die today, all die together. I brought the gun up to aim at Matix’s chest and head again and pressed the trigger. No sound, but I saw that Matix jerked. The round hit Matix in the face again. This hit went right below his right eye, traversed through his skull down through his jaw, and hit his spinal cord in the upper neck area. He was paralyzed from that point forward. I was running on vapors, primordial rage, and bloodlust. My vision was fading; just a few more steps to reach the car.

I took two more steps and focused on my front sight. I was two yards out, the subjects were close now, almost close enough to reach out and touch. I aimed at Matix’s head again and pressed the trigger. If it had not been for the slight jump in my sights I would not have known that I had even fired a shot because, again, I heard no sound. I think Matix jerked, but I could not be sure. The round hit him in the face next to the right corner of his mouth. It traversed down through his skull and into his chest. Matix died at that point. My vision was toast, it was fading and it was almost at a pinpoint of light where the robbers appeared to be far, far away instead of only two yards out. It was nothing but sheer force of will, pure anger that kept me standing, or maybe I should say wobbling. I felt like I was shooting, walking on air because I could not sense my legs on the ground. I felt like I was watching myself at the same time. I could not feel the ground though I was standing on it. It was like being a disinterested observer watching something that does not concern him.

I took my last two steps and I was at the car window. I knew that I had one more shot left and I knew that this was my last chance to prevent Platt and Matix from escaping or moving the car. Platt was still moving. Contrary to all my training, I stuck my revolver into the open window of the car and aimed my revolver right at the center of Platt’s chest. He was so close I did not even bother with the front sights. I pressed the trigger and there was nothing to indicate to me that the revolver had fired. However, I did see the bullet rip a hole in Platt’s chest and he jerked. The bullet traversed his chest and hit his spinal cord, severing the spine high in his neck. He was paralyzed from the neck down. He would die a minute later.

For law enforcement personnel or anyone else who might ever find themselves facing hard, homicidal criminals, FBI Miami Firefight in my opinion is literally the Book of the Year. Our thanks to Ed Mireles for writing it.

You can order one for yourself at www.edmireles.com, or call (540) 841-2124. Get it. Read it.

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