Assault-Weapon Attacks on Rise in Miami

By MATT SEDENSKY
The Associated Press
Friday, September 14, 2007; 9:10 PM

MIAMI -- The spray of bullets that killed a police officer and hurt three others this week came from something increasingly common on this city's streets: a high-powered assault weapon, fast becoming the gun of choice for gang members and violent criminals.

And when the guns, once found solely in the hands of soldiers, are aimed at officers on patrol, there's little authorities can do to escape.

"It's almost like we have water pistols going up against these high-powered rifles," said John Rivera, president of the Dade County Police Benevolent Association. "Our weaponry and our bulletproof vests don't match up to any of those types of weapons."

Federal officials don't compile statistics on the number of crimes involving assault weapons like the AK-47, and municipalities' numbers across the country are patchwork. But in Miami, at least, there are signs it is becoming a major problem.

In 2005, the Miami-Dade Police Department reported two homicides involving an assault rifle; last year there were 10. That agency covers numerous unincorporated areas in the nation's eighth-largest county, but not its biggest cities, which have their own police forces.

The Miami Police Department said 15 of its 79 homicides last year involved assault weapons, up from the year before. This year, already 12 of the 60 homicides have involved the high-power guns.

"We've noticed an increase in the amount of assault weapons that we've seen on the street, and certainly the amount that have been used in murders and other shootings," said Detective Delrish Moss. "And it seems to be increasing every year."

Police do not yet know where the 25-year-old suspect in Thursday's shooting of the Miami-Dade officers got his weapon. Shawn Sherwin Labeet was found hours later and 30 miles from the crime scene. Police said they shot and killed him after he refused to drop his firearm.

On Friday, officers arrested four people accused of aiding Labeet. Alba Bello, 47; her son, Alain Gonzalez, 24; and Bello's boyfriend, Lazaro Guardiola, 35, were charged with accessory after the fact on suspicion of harboring the killer. Labeet's girlfriend, Renee Dangelo, 26, was charged with giving police false information.

Later Friday, Labeet's brother, Shane Labeet, 32, was charged with aiding his brother's flight. Also arrested was Shawn Labeet's nephew Jaleel Torres, 22, who was charged with resisting an officer with violence as investigators tried to question him about his uncle's whereabouts.

Labeet is also the stepbrother of the U.S. Virgin Islands' most wanted criminal, Ishmael Ali LaBeet, said Miami-Dade police Cmdr. Linda O'Brien.

Three decades ago, Ishmael Ali LaBeet and four accomplices opened fire during a robbery on St. Croix, killing eight people. They were caught and convicted of murder, but LaBeet escaped and hijacked an American Airlines jet to Cuba in 1985.


CONTINUED     1        >

© 2007 The Associated Press