Michael Lee Platt and William Russell Matix didn’t fit the profile of people you’d expect to suddenly embark on criminal careers and end up in a shootout with FBI agents, but that’s exactly what they did. Both men were married, and though each had had wives who died in mysterious circumstances (Matix’s wife was stabbed to death along with a co-worker at a hospital in Columbus, Ohio, and Platt’s second wife died of a shotgun wound to the mouth), neither had a criminal record.
At Platt’s urging, Matix moved to Florida after his wife’s death, and met and married Brenda Horne, with whom he had a daughter. On the surface, everything appeared normal.
But on October 5, 1985, Platt and Matix murdered a twenty-five-year-old Hispanic man named Emelio Briel while he was target shooting at a rock pit. They stole Briel’s car, then used it to commit several robberies.
On October 16, they made an attempt to rob a Wells Fargo armored truck in front of a Winn-Dixie supermarket. One of them shot a guard in the leg with a shotgun, and two other guards returned fire. Neither Platt nor Matix was injured. No money was taken.
Then on November 8, the pair robbed a teller station outside a branch of the Florida National Bank. Ninety minutes later, they robbed a branch of the Professional Savings Bank. They used Briel’s car in the second robbery.
On January 10, 1986, the two men robbed a Brinks armored truck. One suspect shot the guard with a shotgun while the other shot him with a rifle. The guard survived. Again, they used Briel’s car, but were followed from the scene by a citizen who saw them switch to a white Ford F-150 pickup truck.
On March 1, 1986 Emelio Briel’s remains were found, but were not positively identified until May.
On March 12, Platt and Matix robbed and shot Jose Collazo while he was target shooting at a rock pit (do you see a pattern here?). They left him for dead and stole his car, a black 1979 Chevrolet Monte Carlo. Collazo survived the shooting and walked three miles to get help.
On March 19, the pair used Collazo’s car to rob the Barnett Bank at 13595 South Dixie Highway.
Then came Friday, April 11, 1986. FBI agents convened at 8:45 a.m. at a Home Depot to begin a rolling stakeout in an effort to find the black Monte Carlo. They had no idea who the two men were at that time, but they had a hunch the pair would attempt another robbery. Fourteen agents gathered, deploying in eleven cars. At 9:30, Agents Benjamin Grogan and Jerry Dove found the car and were joined by two other units. After following the Monte Carlo, they attempted a felony traffic stop by forcing the car off the road. It ended up nosing into a tree, its passenger door pinned by a parked car, the driver’s door held shut by Richard Manuzzi, who was alone in his vehicle.
What followed was a study in chaos. The agents, despite outnumbering the suspects, were outgunned. Manauzzi laid his revolver on his seat in anticipation of a shootout, but it went flying when his car collided with the heavier Monte Carlo. Grogan’s glasses flew off his face with the impact, and it was argued that this was partially responsible for what followed, though he was the first to get a hit, wounding Matix in the forearm.
In the meantime, Matix and Platt were armed with a Mini-14, a 12-gauge shotgun, and two .357 Magnum revolvers, and they used these firearms to great effect. Even after two Miami-Dade police officers arrived, the two criminals continued to fight. In the end, Matix was shot six times before he died, Platt twelve. They managed to wound all but one of the FBI agents, and killed two of them. Toxicology reports found no drugs in their systems. They somehow managed to sustain fighting even when severely wounded.
Like the North Hollywood shootout eleven years later, the FBI Miami shootout resulted in the FBI and several police departments changing their duty guns. In fact, it was the FBI’s search for a more effective weapon that resulted in Smith & Wesson developing the .40 caliber round. After initially adopting the 10mm, the agency found it had too much recoil for many agents to control effectively, and a special reduced velocity round was developed, called the 10mm lite or the 10mm FBI. This round eventually became the .40 S&W, a round commonly used by law enforcement to this day.
While perhaps not as famous as the North Hollywood shootout—it wasn’t filmed by live television news crews, after all—the FBI Miami shootout is still an important milestone in the development of law enforcement service firepower, as well as the trend we now see where officers always wear ballistic vests.