Two South Florida law enforcement officers were shot and hospitalized and a carjacking suspect is dead after a cross-county string of violent incidents that climaxed on Florida's Turnpike during the height of afternoon rush hour.
A Broward Sheriff's deputy was also injured in an accident while she was rushing to the scene to try to help.
The incidents, which shut down the turnpike until Friday morning, began with a carjacking in Miami-Dade Countyand included a robbery at a Pembroke Pines barber shop. Thousands of motorists who were heading home were left stranded on one of South Florida's busiest stretches of roadway, or were forced to make detours.
Between 4 a.m. and 5 a.m. Friday, the turnpike reopened in both directions from Interstate 595 to the University Drive exit in Miami-Dade County.
Miami Marlins catcher Brett Hayes posted on his Twitter account at 6:04 p.m. that he was "sitting in traffic on the Turnpike and a man with a gun just walked by our car. Not good."
The crime spree ended with the suspect shooting and killing himself on the highway in front of startled motorists who witnessed the death. Traffic was backed up for miles.
According to officials, a Key Biscayne police officer was shot and taken to Hollywood's Memorial Regional Hospital shortly before 5:30 p.m. Thursday. She was reportedly shot in the neck area, but was in stable condition.
A spokesman with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said an agent was also shot, but that his injuries are not life threatening. The Broward deputy suffered a broken leg and was expected to recover.
None of the injured officers were identified.
Details of what had happened were still being compiled by FBI investigators late Thursday.
The string of violence began at 2:20 p.m. Thursday with a carjacking near Southwest 75th Street and 27th Avenue in Miami-Dade.
The suspect in that robbery, whose name was not immediately available, was apparently later involved in an armed robbery at a Pembroke Pines barber shop, Maxim Cuts, in the 1400 block of South Palm Avenue. Shots were fired there, but nobody was injured.
Babershop owner Dwight Francis said the gunman stormed into the shop and demanded cash. Moments after he left with money, a customer who works as a security guard chased after him and opened fire with his own gun.
Nobody was hit.
"Thank God [the customer] was here, because if he wasn't, this could've gone down quite different," said Francis. "You never know what could've happened."
According to officials, the robber then committed a second carjacking, this time stealing an Infiniti to escape.
At some point, the man got into a wreck on Florida's Turnpike near the Hollywood Boulevard exit.
"We believe he got out of the car and began searching for another car to steal," said FBI spokesman Timothy Donovan.
The Key Biscayne police officer, who was reportedly driving home at the time, stopped at the accident scene to render aid but was then shot. Investigators believe the ICE agent also stopped at the wreck to help and was shot in the arm. He was also on his way home.
Shortly after the reported shootings, a Broward Sheriff's deputy based in Dania Beach began rushing to the area but got into an accident on Interstate-95 near the Sheridan Street exit, said sheriff's spokesman Jim Leljedal.
A Memorial Regional Hospital spokeswoman confirmed to reporters shortly before 8 p.m. that a total of three law enforcement officers, all from different agencies, were being treated there for injuries.
Police officers with high-powered weapons from numerous agencies were seen with dogs massing at around 7 p.m. at the parking lot of a strip shopping center east of Pembroke Road. But reports of a possible second suspect were later dismissed.
Immediately after the incident, traffic on the turnpike was shut down in both directions between Northwest 199th Street in Miami-Dade and Hollywood Boulevard in Broward. Southbound traffic on the turnpike was blocked at Interstate 595.
Dozens of grim-faced police officers from different agencies, including from Key Biscayne Police, Hollywood Police and the Broward Sheriff's Office, converged at the hospital's emergency entrance as word of their injured fellow officers spread.
Family members were also seen arriving at the hospital, but did not comment to reporters and TV crews.
Some motorists stuck on the highway communicated with the outside world via social media as the late afternoon drama played out.
Twan Russell, former NFL player and Director of Youth and Community Programs for Miami Dolphins, wrote in his Twitter feed: "No joking, a guy just ran inches by my car with a gun in his hand being chased by 10 police officers on turnpike. Traffic grid locked. WOW!"
Several TV stations identified the injured Key Biscayne officer as Nelia Real, a Plantation resident. Real is a 16-year veteran of the Key Biscayne Police Department, according to the Miami Herald. An unidentified police officer who arrived at the scene reportedly rushed
the female officer to the hospital in his cruiser.
"We are very fortunate. It appears that the wounds have missed all of the vital organs based on the information that the doctors have just provided me," Key Biscayne Police Chief Charles Press told NBC6 in Miami.
Staff writers Mike Clary, Michael Laughlin and Lori Todd contributed to this report.