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A UPS driver was working a new route when he was taken hostage and killed in a chaotic police shootout

An armed robbery at a jewelry store in Florida ended with four people killed in a shootout on Dec. 5, according to police. (Video: The Washington Post)

The UPS driver who was taken hostage and killed during a police shootout on a Florida highway was working a new route, news reports say. Robbers had hijacked the driver’s van on Thursday and exchanged gunfire with officers while dozens of cars were stopped around them.

Frank Ordonez, a 27-year-old who usually delivered on a route in Coconut Grove, was driving by himself in the adjacent city of Coral Gables on Thursday, according to his stepfather, Joe Merino, who spoke with NBC Miami. Merino said he was watching the police chase on television. He didn’t realize at first that his stepson was the driver in the UPS truck.

“It was hard for me to swallow, a real hard pill to swallow,” Merino told the news station. “When my 15-year-old saw it, she collapsed.”

The episode shut down Miramar Parkway in the Miami-area city of Miramar as the UPS truck got trapped in slow-moving, rush-hour traffic and dozens of police officers streamed into the road with their guns drawn. News helicopters captured the scene as officers fired at the truck and took cover behind cars trapped in the standstill. Bodies fell from the passenger side of the truck and into the road.

The two robbers and a person in a nearby car also were killed in the shootout, the FBI told reporters. The agency identified the suspects as Miami-Dade County residents Lamar Alexander and Ronnie Jerome Hill, both 41. The bystander has not been identified.

Speaking about the suspects, Merino told NBC Miami that he is not a violent person, “but from one human being to another, I’m glad they’re dead."

Ordonez’s favorite pastime was being with his two daughters, ages 3 and 6, his brother Roy Ordonez told CNN. He also liked to fish and play basketball and video games. He was filling in on Thursday for a driver who had called out of work, CNN reported.

On a GoFundMe page that had raised more than $60,000 by Friday afternoon, Roy Ordonez wrote that his brother had been gunned “down like a criminal by the Florida police.” He asked people to share the fundraising page to “make people aware of trigger happy police officers.”

“They could have killed many more people, could have been one of your loved ones,” Roy Ordonez wrote. “Please don’t let my brother’s death be for nothing. Police need to be held accountable.”

The incident started when a silent holdup alarm was triggered about 4:15 p.m. in Regent Jewelers in the Miracle Mile promenade of Coral Gables, police told reporters. Employees buzzed the robbers into the store because they were posing as postal workers, according to the Miami Herald. One of the gunmen fired into the floor, and the bullet ricocheted, hitting a female employee in the forehead, the Herald reported.

The robbers exchanged gunfire with the store owner, causing some bullets to reach City Hall across the street, police said. The building was locked down, and no city employees were injured.

The gunmen fled north to Coral Gables in a truck, hijacked the UPS truck and abducted the driver while he was making a delivery, police said. Police cars chased the truck before it became boxed into a middle lane by traffic and officers swarmed it.

In the aftermath of the deadly shootout, witnesses shared startling images on social media — many showing graphic scenes and gunfire.

“The armed suspects engaged law enforcement in open fire,” FBI agent George Piro told reporters. He said it would be “completely inappropriate” to discuss whether Ordonez or the bystander may have been hit by officers’ gunfire because investigators had just begun to process the crime scene.

David Graves, a spokesman for UPS, said the company appreciated law enforcement’s service and would cooperate with the probe.

“It’s unfortunate that the bystanders were killed, but the bad guys put all this in motion,” Steadman Stahl, president of the Miami-Dade Police Benevolent Association, told the Herald. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the two innocent bystanders.”

Brittany Shammas contributed to this report.

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