By Suzette Laboy
MIAMI — A shootout erupted Thursday in a notoriously crime-ridden section of Miami as a team of heavily armed law enforcement agents tried to serve a warrant, leaving two officers and a suspect dead, authorities said.
Miami-Dade Police Director James Loftus said 21-year veteran Roger Castillo had been shot once and died at the scene. Amanda Haworth, a 23-year veteran, was taken to a hospital and later died from several gunshot wounds. Officer Oscar Placencia shot and killed the suspect, 22-year-old Johnny Simms, who had been armed with a handgun, Loftus said.
A squad from the warrants division was serving a summons for first-degree murder to Simms in the city's impoverished Liberty City neighborhood. Officers knew Simms, who has a lengthy criminal, was inside the home — a duplex with bars on the windows — and told him to come out, Loftus said.
"This unit is very well-trained, very well-armed, and highly protects itself," said Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez, a former police chief. "So they know what they're doing. It was just a tragic incident that we see here too often in Miami-Dade, of a violent suspect who could care less."
Loftus said another officer, Deidree Beecher, was being treated at a hospital for a knee injury. She was not shot.
Several people were being questioned, but no arrests have been made, Loftus said.
"Our worst nightmare was visited upon us again today," Loftus said. "Two angels from our police department were murdered today. They were murdered by someone who had murdered someone else."
All the officers were wearing body armor and had clear police identification on them, Loftus said.
Simms was wanted for his involvement in an October 2010 killing, Loftus said. Police didn't immediately have additional details about that crime. According to the Florida Department of Corrections, Simms was most recently released from prison in September. His criminal record included convictions for grand theft of a vehicle, robbery with a weapon and cocaine distribution.
John Rivera, president of the Dade County Police Benevolent Association, said in an e-mail that the fallen officers were heroes.
"These two officers were loving family members, friends and our neighbors. They wanted to serve their community and make it a better, safer place for all of us," Rivera said.
Castillo had three children, and Haworth had one child, Loftus said.
Two schools had been placed on lockdown as residents waited outside their homes in the neighborhood. Streets were blocked off with police tape as U.S. marshals walked the streets in riot gear.
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Liberty City was named for a housing project built in the 1930s for poor African-Americans. The area has never fully recovered from years of simmering racial tension and riots