Fla. Police Officer Wounded in Shooting Near Hotel; SWAT Units Called

March 21, 2024
A massive law enforcement presence brought the area around a hotel to a halt after gunfire erupted and left a Fort Lauderdale police officer injured and a suspect dead.

By Shira Moolten, Rafael Olmeda and Joe Cavaretta

Source South Florida Sun-Sentinel

FORT LAUDERDALE, FL — Police on Thursday shot and killed a man who called them to report he had committed a murder in his room at a hotel near Port Everglades.

Fort Lauderdale Police Chief Bill Schultz said three officers entered the suspect’s room at the Holiday Inn Express on the 17th Street Causeway and confronted him after trying and failing to communicate with him. He said there was an exchange of gunfire and one officer was wounded.

Schultz did not name the officer, but he said the injuries were not life-threatening. The officer was taken to Broward Health Medical Center for treatment. Schultz said another officer was treated for minor injuries, but that officer had not been shot.

The investigation into the incident brought traffic at Southeast 17th Street to a standstill for several hours.

“The suspect barricaded himself in that same room,” Schultz said. A SWAT team later came in and found the suspect, dead. No one else was in the room.

Police did not identify the suspect but said he was a “local, not a visitor” to South Florida.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement will handle the investigation, which is standard for police-involved shootings. The three officers who fired their weapons will be placed on administrative leave, which also is standard procedure.

A massive police presence brought the area to a virtual halt before 8 a.m. Wednesday.

Guests at the Holiday Inn Express Fort Lauderdale Cruise Airport described the chaos.

“We’re moving down here. We were waking up to have breakfast at the hotel, and staff pushed everyone into an event room,” said hotel guest Alexis Boettcher, of Cleveland Ohio. “I came downstairs. They told me there was an active shooter and I couldn’t go back in the building.”

Bullet holes could be seen clearly in some windows above the pool deck.

Boettcher and her boyfriend, Luis Castanedo, had noticed streams of police cars arriving when they got up Thursday morning. He went down to get breakfast while she went outside to see what was going on. Then Castanedo heard a shot fired and the couple was separated.

Castanedo was put into a conference room with about 15 other hotel guests, including families with children, he said, the lights shut off. Hotel staff told them there was an active shooter. Quietly, they went on their phones to try to find out what was going on.

The two finally reunited outside the hotel later Thursday morning.

Castanedo said hotel staff seemed to know what they were doing, and it was clearly a drill they had practiced before.

Alejandro Morales, 23, had just arrived in Fort Lauderdale from New Orleans Thursday morning for a Call of Duty tournament scheduled to begin at 12:30 at the nearby Broward Convention Center when his Uber got stuck and he saw the caution tape and dozens of police cars out front.

“I was going to leave my bag and go to the event but I don’t think that’s going to happen,” Morales said.

Six Spring Breakers visiting from Boston said they were two doors down from the room where the situation unfolded.

Luke Loffler was still in his swim trunks and towel as he stood in the parking lot across the street. He said he had gone down to use the hotel pool and was in the elevator when the doors opened on six police officers with guns telling him to get downstairs.

His friends, meanwhile, were back in the room, where Bryce Winter and Nick Morrissey said they heard somewhere around 15 shots.

The incident had little effect on Port Everglades cruise activity, said port spokeswoman Joy Oglesby. Only one cruise ship docked Thursday and that passengers were getting into the port from its two other entrances while the north entrance was closed.


©2024 South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

Visit sun-sentinel.com.

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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