The 1986 FBI Miami Gunfight

On April 11, 1986, agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s C-1 Miami Bank Robbery Squad were moving into position after finishing their stakeout briefing, when a pair of agents spotted a vehicle that matched the description of the one they were looking for.

As Special Agents Benjamin Grogan and Jerry Dove maneuvered behind the car, traveling northbound on the South Dixie Highway, they confirmed the license plate was a match for the vehicle stolen from an attempted murder victim, a month before. Further investigation had led the members of the C-1 Squad to believe that the attackers in that case were the same pair of violent criminals who had robbed a string of banks and armored cars in the area, shooting several guards in the process.

The C-1 Squad was determined to catch them and stop their violent crime spree, before someone was killed.

Special Agent Grogan alerted the other units that they were following the suspect vehicle and requested their assistance. Over the next three to four minutes, Agents Grogan and Dove would be joined by Agents John Hanlon, Edmundo Mireles Jr., and Richard Manauzzi, as well as Supervisor Gordon McNeill, as the team marshaled additional reinforcements (including marked Miami Metro-Dade PD units), and developed a hasty plan for stopping the criminals.

The dangerous men had other plans though, and accelerated away from the agents, who had to make a fast decision–let them go, or force them to stop? The agents knew the extreme danger these men posed to the public, and feared they would be unable to locate them again if they let them go, so the decision was made.

“Take them, felony car stop, let’s do it!”

In the gunfight which followed, two agents would be killed, three would nearly be killed from the serious gunshot wounds they received, and another two agents would receive less serious shrapnel wounds. The two robbers would also be killed.

The “FBI Miami Gunfight” would send ripples throughout law enforcement that are still being felt today. It’s most well known for the fundamental changes it prompted in the testing and selection of law enforcement duty ammunition, but the important lessons about mindset, tactics, training and equipment it inspired have been no less vital.

Today, we at RevolverGuy honor the agents who lost their lives in this bloody fight, and the six agents who stopped these killers at grave risk to their own lives. We also salute the Metro-Dade Police officers (Marty Heckman and Leo Figueroa) who came to their assistance in their desperate hour.

May God bless them all.

*****

Agents Killed or Harmed on April 11, 1986:

– Benjamin P. Grogan, 53, a 25-year veteran; deceased
– Jerry Dove, 30, an agent since 1982; deceased
– Gordon G. McNeill, 43, a 19-year veteran; seriously wounded
– Edmundo Mireles, Jr., 33, an agent since 1979; seriously wounded
– John F. Hanlon, Jr., 48, entered on duty in August 1963; seriously wounded
– Richard A. Manauzzi, 43, 15 years of service; injured, treated, and released
– Gilbert M. Orrantia, 27, on duty since April 1982; injured, treated, and released

Source: Federal Bureau of Investigation

Although popularly known as the “Miami Gunfight,” the area in which the gunfight occurred was an unincorporated area named Kendall, which fell outside the Miami city limits.
When the robbers failed to comply with FBI demands to pull over, Agent Hanlon attempted to stop them by pulling alongside and forcing their Monte Carlo to the right shoulder. Agent Manauzzi was in trail of the two battling cars and realized the passenger of the Monte Carlo was preparing to shoot his rifle across the cabin, and out the driver’s window, at Agents Mireles and Hanlon on his left, just feet away. To prevent them from being shot, Manauzzi rammed the Monte Carlo from behind, breaking up the shoving match, and sending all three cars spinning in different directions. Manauzzi regained control and steered his vehicle to ram the driver’s side of the Monte Carlo again, and the two vehicles crashed, resting side by side. The suspect’s Monte Carlo was trapped between a parked Oldsmobile Cutlass on its right, a tree to the front, and Agent Manauzzi’s blue Buick on its left (visible in left foreground, with the Monte Carlo on the other side). Manauzzi immediately came under fire from the passenger with the rifle, and was unable to return fire, since his weapon had been lost in the crash. He believed the S&W Model 19 was lying in the street, and ran to find it. As he turned, he was hit in the back with shrapnel from fragmented rifle bullets. Unable to locate his weapon, and vulnerable to the suspect’s fire, he sought cover. Agent McNeill’s maroon over white Buick is in the center foreground, and Agent Grogan/Dove’s maroon over cream FBI car is on the right (Note: The car was not here during the gunfight—it rolled forward when the suspect’s body was removed from behind the wheel. During the fight, it was located near the right edge of this photo). The Metro-Dade officer on the left is standing where Agent Mireles would later fire his shotgun at the robbers. The officer on the right is standing where Agent McNeill would later be felled by a rifle bullet in the neck. The two detectives in the background on the right are standing near the area where Agents Dove and Grogan were killed.
After the crash that brought the pursuit to a stop, Agent Ben Grogan stopped his vehicle a few lengths behind the suspect’s Monte Carlo and exited the driver’s side to return fire with his 9mm S&W Model 459 pistol. Grogan shot the driver through the right wrist, which prevented him from using his primary hand for the remainder of the fight. When the second suspect assaulted Grogan’s position with a .223 caliber rifle, Grogan was first wounded in the left thigh, then later killed with a bullet that was fired from his right flank. Agent Grogan left a spouse behind.
Agent Jerry Dove was partnered with Agent Grogan, and engaged the robbers with his 9mm S&W Model 459 auto from the passenger side of the FBI car. When the rifle-armed suspect crawled out the passenger side window of the Monte Carlo, Dove made a remarkable shot from 30 feet away that struck the suspect in the upper right arm, passed through, and continued into his chest, stopping just inches from his heart. Dove fired two additional rounds in this brief window of time and struck the suspect again in the right thigh and left foot, before the suspect gained cover. While the chest wound would eventually have proven fatal, it unfortunately did not stop the suspect, who later advanced on Dove’s position under a hail of gunfire, and wounded him with a shot that tracked through the left side of his body, from collarbone to hip. As the badly injured agent struggled to get his damaged and empty gun back into action, he was killed with a pair of shots to the back of his head.
Supervisory Agent Gordon McNeill engaged the robbers with his nickeled, 2.5” barreled, S&W Model 19 from the belly of the beast, on the driver’s side of Manauzzi’s blue FBI car, just six feet away. After firing 4 rounds of .38 Special 158+P LSWCHPs through the hole in the driver’s window, which was created by the rifle fire from within, McNeill’s gun hand was struck by a .223 caliber bullet from the suspect’s Mini-14. The bullet caused severe damage, but McNeill was able to shoot his remaining two rounds at the driver, striking him in the head and neck, and taking him out of the fight. When McNeill was unable to get the cylinder on his partially-reloaded gun to close, he attempted to retrieve a shotgun in the back seat of his car. Before he could get to the gun, he was shot in the neck by another .223 that felled him, and left him temporarily paralyzed from the neck down. McNeill recovered and returned to duty, but suffered from pain caused by his wounds for the remainder of his life. He retired from the FBI 11 years later, in 1997.
After his primary weapon was lost in the violent crash that preceded the gunfight, Agent John Hanlon drew his S&W Model 36 revolver from an ankle rig and charged into the gunfight as the suspect’s rifle boomed. Hanlon moved to reinforce Grogan and Dove’s position, and when he reached their vehicle, he fired all 5 rounds at the highly mobile suspect with the rifle. When Hanlon’s gun ran dry, he attempted to reload it at the rear of the FBI car, but was shot in the hand with a .223 bullet and could not complete the task. As he lay wounded, Hanlon saw the suspect approach with his rifle, and tried to gain cover underneath the rear of the FBI car, but the suspect shot him in the upper thighs at near-contact distance. Despite his terrible injuries, Hanlon recovered and served 17 years with the Florida State Attorney’s Office, and another year and a half with the Broward County Sheriff’s Office, before retiring from law enforcement at the age of 70.
Agent Gil Orrantia stopped his vehicle approximately 28 yards to the north of the crashed Monte Carlo, as the gunfight was already underway. He saw Agent Mireles get hit and go down. When the suspect with the rifle bailed out of the Monte Carlo, he engaged Orrantia and his partner, Agent Ron Risner, with a 6” S&W Model 586 revolver. Orrantia returned fire while seated behind the wheel of his vehicle with his S&W Model 13 revolver, shooting 6 rounds of .38 Special 158+P LSWCHP at the attacker, and possibly striking him in the right forearm, through the radius bone, which caused the assailant to drop the gun. When his weapon ran dry, Orrantia ducked below the windows and reloaded with six rounds from a pouch. As he reloaded, the suspect switched back to his rifle and fired at Orrantia and Risner, injuring Orrantia with shrapnel wounds in the head and left arm. Orrantia finished his reload and fired an additional six rounds at the suspect, then reloaded his weapon again from a box of cartridges in the glovebox of the FBI car. By the time he returned to the fight, the suspects were no longer in sight. Agent Orrantia retired from the FBI after 26 years of service and later became the Director of the Arizona Department of Homeland Security, in June 2009.
Agent Ron Risner was partnered with Agent Orrantia, and exited his vehicle to fire at the suspects across the street from behind the engine block of his FBI car. When Agent Risner emptied his 9mm S&W Model 459 pistol, he immediately transitioned to a S&W Model 60 on his ankle, and fired a shot from it before reloading the 459 and resuming the fight with it. Either Risner or Orrantia fired the shot that struck the suspect in the right forearm and caused him to drop his revolver. Agent Risner is also credited with striking the same suspect, from about 30 yards, with a shot that went through the right tricep and burrowed into the suspect’s back. Agent Risner was the only agent who was not physically wounded in the fight. He retired from the FBI in 1999.
Agent Ed Mireles was horribly wounded when a .223 caliber bullet exploded his left arm, and another glanced off his forehead, severing the left temporal artery, as he raced to reinforce the line near Agent McNeill’s position. Willing himself back into the fight, he crawled to a position of cover at the rear of Agent McNeill’s car, and fired at the suspects with a Remington 870 shotgun, cleverly operating it with one hand only. When the buckshot failed to stop the suspects, Mireles—struggling to maintain consciousness, due to severe blood loss—advanced on the killers as they attempted to escape in Agent Grogan’s car. Mireles fired 6 rounds of .38 Special 158+P LSWCHP ammunition at the suspects from his 4” S&W Model 686 as he assaulted the car, firing the last round with the gun thrust through the open window. Three of his rounds hit the passenger suspect in the face and neck, and two of his rounds hit the driver in the head, chest and spine, finally putting an end to the gruesome battle. Mireles endured years of surgeries and rehabilitation afterwards, and returned to full duty 27 months after he was injured. He retired from the FBI in 2004.
The suspects were armed with two 6” .357 Magnum revolvers (one S&W 586, one Dan Wesson), a S&W Model 3000 pump shotgun, and a Mini-14 rifle fed by 30 round magazines, as represented on the orange background. The remainder of the weapons on the blue background represent the firearms carried by the 14 members of the FBI stakeout team. Unfortunately, the members armed with the most capable weapons (the HK MP5 and Colt M-16) were unable to get to the scene quickly enough to join the fight. These are not the actual weapons used, and are merely displayed for comparison.
The corner of SW 82 Ave. and SW 122 St. has been renamed in honor of the fallen agents. The trees which once bordered the north end of the parking lot in the background are now gone. The suspect’s Monte Carlo would have been in a position alongside the left of the red vehicle in this photo.
Today, a marker just north of the scene pays tribute to the fallen agents and their heroism.

Recommended reading:

FBI Miami Firefight: Five Minutes that Changed the Bureau, by Ed Mireles

Author: Mike

Lieutenant Colonel (Ret.) Mike Wood is a certified revolver nut, an NRA Law Enforcement Division-certified Firearms Instructor, and a columnist at PoliceOne.com. He is also the author of Newhall Shooting: A Tactical Analysis, the definitive study of the infamous, 1970 California Highway Patrol shootout in Newhall, California. Please visit the official website for this book at www.newhallshooting.com for more information.

23 thoughts on “The 1986 FBI Miami Gunfight”

  1. As always Mike, you’ve done a fantastic job here. Those crime scene photos of bullet holes and blood are still rather shocking.

  2. Thank you Mike, friendships formed as a result of that tragedy have been some of the best of my life. 34 years ago today, April 11. A day that changed a lot of lives including my own.

    1. David, you couldn’t ask for finer men to be in your circle of friends. Thank you for all you’ve done to ensure the lessons from that day will not be forgotten. Safe travels, my friend!

  3. Much like Newhall, it is still hair raising to hear about it! I think Ed Mireles said the agents with 9mm pistols were HRT members. If so it really gives a sense of intensity to how dangerous these suspects were. Thank you Mike, great read!

    1. Yes, it’s a busy week for bad anniversaries, isn’t it? To clarify, the agents armed with S&W 459s were not HRT members, but rather SWAT-qualified agents assigned to the regional team. Of course, after Miami, the Bureau would soon adopt policies allowing all agents to carry semiautomatic pistols.

        1. You bet, very sobering. The human body can take a lot of punishment and keep going, which is good when we’re talking about the good guys, but not when we’re talking about the bad guys.

  4. Both the Mas Ayoob piece on the shooting and the movie of the week treatment starring David Soul and Michael Gross are worth reading and seeing.

    The writing was done for American Handgunner, I think, and the TV movie was hailed as remarkably accurate, especially with respect to the shootout. Both highly recommended.

  5. Mike great article and with the pictures it now makes sense. You did a great service to honor the fallen as well as the survivors.
    Side note do you know anything on why stopping power.net is not coming up? I hope Evan is all right. Bandaidman

    1. Hi Terry, it’s great to see you here, and I sincerely appreciate your kind praise. I talked to Evan via email last week and he assured me they’re doing fine, but the site has a glitch and his sons have been too busy at work to spend the time necessary to debug it. He’s hoping to get things back online quickly when they have an opportunity to look at it. Our friend Evan is doing OK.

  6. I’ve studied this gunfight extensively. I’ve watched 2 instructional vids and red Mireles’ book. Good job, Mike! Thank you all for the time and effort you put into this site.

      1. Great post Mike. I listened to a podcast with Agent Mireles that was very good. Still have to read his book but listening to him tell it was chilling. Thanks for marking these two sad memorials. The sacrifice of these men assuredly saved many lives in the ensuing years.

        1. Indeed it did! Glad you appreciated them. I know you’ll love Ed’s book when you read it. I’ve never read a finer account of what it’s like to experience something like this.

  7. I was in the Air National Guard in St Louis at the time and I remember how this affected many of the people I worked with who were police officers in their full time jobs. Many were still carrying revolvers or were working with very little training. The Air Force was transitioning to the M-9 Beretta, however, most of us still carried a Model 10 or Model 15 S&W, if we weren’t carrying an M-16.

  8. This event was a turning point for American law enforcement both as to ammunition and weapons. I had the privilege of knowing Dr. Martin Fackler (the US Army’s wound ballistics expert) who was retained to help with developing better choices in ammunition etc. I have read both the FBI and the Miami-Dade analysis of these events and a few things stand out:
    a) despite a gun fight that lasted over 4 minutes (an eternity in context) nobody with a revolver successfully reloaded (due to stress and in one case horrible injury where hand tissue prevented the cylinder from closing this was a brutal fight), the only successful reloads were performed by the agents with the smith 459s.
    b) long arms are useful even at bad breath distance
    c) what saved the day was heroism of agents, especially Mireles who as the “tunnel was closing” and he was losing consciousness charged the bad guys and ended the fight.

    Despite the above I still think revolvers have a place in personal defense, kudos to revolver guy for giving us all the retrospective!

    1. Thanks Kevin, I appreciate your comments and observations, but need to correct the record on your point a).

      There were five agents who were shooting revolvers. McNeill, as you observed, could not successfully reload because his cylinder was full of gore and it disabled the weapon. Hanlon was in the process of reloading when he was shot in the hand with a .223, so we should more accurately describe that as an injury preventing his reload, instead of just “stress.”

      Risner only fired a single round from his Model 60, and therefore did not need to attempt a reload.

      Mireles emptied his revolver and did not attempt a reload because the bad guys were now disabled or dead, the fight was over, and because he was barely clinging to life, himself.

      Orrantia not only reloaded his Model 13 revolver once, but twice during the fight, even after catching frag. He was absolutely successful in reloading his revolver! Please see the description in this article.

      I appreciate the point that the 459s were easier to reload, but it’s not accurate to conclude that “nobody with a revolver successfully reloaded,” or that “stress” prevented the agents from doing it.

      I agree completely with your other points, particularly on the heroism of the agents.

      Thanks again for your comments! We’re glad to have you here, and to hear from you.

      1. Thank you, Mike, for the post and the details just added.

        My wife and I keep revolvers and a shotgun in the house, but like Justin, were I going to war, or facing men armed like these criminals, I would pack a 1911 and an AR.

  9. I remember that day very clearly. I was eighteen and my father was an Idaho State Trooper. There had been other police involved shootings during my short lifetime, but Miami was the one that stuck with me. I was only two when Newhall occurred and twelve when Norco went down so I was unaware of them. I used to have officers try to replicate what Ed Mireles did only using snap caps instead of live ammo in the shotgun. They found it enlightening, but then we transitioned from shotguns to AR-15’s so that training ceased to be relevant in the eyes of my superiors.

      1. I agree and I’ve mentioned that to the current crop of firearms instructors. I now focus on training myself; having resigned from the position a few years ago. Now I just work cases and attend training instead of leading it.

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