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Old February 12, 2007, 11:22 PM   #1
Doug.38PR
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FBI Miami shootout: Better Handgun Caliber or better Tactics

In the FBI shootout 20 years ago, it is noted in this wikipedia article http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FBI_Miami_shootout%2C_1986 that this shootout lead to the FBI to question the effectiveness of their 9mm and .38 special ammunition and search for a "more powerful" caliber. The 10mm. Now, I am not trying to start a caliber war here. I am actually trying to discourage it.

The .38 Spl+P LSWCHP is a proven manstopper and in fact is known as the FBI load, the 9mm used at the time was probably in the ballpark more or less (although I seem to remember reading recently that the load was a little light at the time of the shooting, 115 gr I think). The 10mm, might increase the chances of dropping someone slightly, but we've heard our share of stories of people getting shot with .45 acp HP ammo and not going down. Some of those men carried .357 magnums which I understand has the same power the 10mm. Anyway, the FBI backed off the 10mm and downgraded to the .40 S&W.

A pistol is a defensive weapon and it's primary purpose is to get you out of trouble.

A rifle or shotgun is what is needed for going on the offensive.

Seems to me, rather than change handgun calibers the solution should have been that when planning to track down known heavily armed criminals in a search, take a little more artillary than just service handguns and a single shotgun. Perhaps ever other man in the FBI party should have been armed with an 870 SG for each car. A rifle in an urban area seems to be a little extreme when you are likely going to be in close range combat.

Back when the FBI and the rest of america was chasing down criminals like Bonnie & Clyde, Machinegun Kelly, Babyface Nelson, John Dillinger etc. they took along a little more than just handguns as said criminals were armed with everything from the Thompson to the BAR.

Hate to get legal and political, but didn't they neglect to inform the local police what they were doing? If you will recall, in the tv movie anyway, the miami police arrived as the firefight was going on in a subdivision having no idea who were the good guys or bad guys or even if there were any good guys (could have been rival gangs in a drug war) and were unable to do anything but watch and wait rather than offer assistance.
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Old February 12, 2007, 11:44 PM   #2
Mossy00
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This was on tv, a reinactment of it, it was pretty interesting. Why FBI officers would be in a car with only revolvers is beyond me. Even police are better armed. Their cars should be equipped with rifles over shotguns, IMO. A rifle is effective at short and long distances, where a shotgun is not. As it was depicted on tv, they came upon the suspects car by accident.
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Old February 13, 2007, 12:02 AM   #3
Doug.38PR
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A rifle is effective at short and long distances, where a shotgun is not.
The only problem with that is overpenetration and bullets spraying all over an urban area.

Back then police generally didn't carry rifles in their cars, only shotguns. Plainclothesmen didn't though, which included FBI. But when you are on a manhunt? sheeze. Was this a History Channel or Court TV documentary you saw?
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Old February 13, 2007, 12:06 AM   #4
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Good questions, Doug.

If I recall, the original 10mm round as adopted by the FBI was a pretty hot load. Too hot, according to the FBI. They thought female agents had trouble handling it, so they reduced the load to the point that it didn't match the .45 ACP. Somebody finally figured that out and they went to the .40.

As to long guns, it played a major role in a lot of agencies recognizing the importance of the patrol rifle, but the real clincher there was the North Hollywood shootout. I'm going from memory here, but I believe the agents in Miami were in plain clothes and on foot when they approached. The idea was to surprise them, which is typical FBI thinking. The concealment factor played a role there. The FBI didn't put emphasis on heavily armed, highly coordinated special response teams then.

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Hate to get legal and political, but didn't they neglect to inform the local police what they were doing?
That was pretty typical of the FBI then, and still is today, in spite of the "share intel" mandate after 9/11.

I almost got in a shootout with 4 FBI agents some 15 years ago. I was working radar on a major city street when I clocked a sedan at 65 in a 35. I lit 'em up & they didn't stop. There were 4 male occupants, and I was about to radio in pursuit when they pulled into a car wash. As I exited my cruiser, all 4 jumped out of the car with guns in hand. I drew, took cover behind the car and ordered them to drop their weapons. (What the hell else could I do?) Just as I thought "here we go", one faced me and fortunately I recognized him. Finally I yelled "what the hell is going on here?"

Seems they had an informant at the car wash wearing a wire for a sting operation on a corrupt corrections officer. Another case of "we can do it ourselves". They rarely ever inform us of an operation on our turf. So I can well believe that they never informed Miami Metro Dade PD of their operation.
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Old February 13, 2007, 12:37 AM   #5
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My view on it is that it was a combination of:

Bringing a pistol to a rifle fight.
Motivated opponent who was not intimidated by being outnumbered or being shot.
Improper weapon retention by the officers. Several of them lost their primary weapon in the crash and one lost his eyeglasses.
Matix and Platt knew they were being followed and were able to ready their weapons as well as retain them in the crash.

I am sure I am missing something.
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Old February 13, 2007, 12:54 AM   #6
Doug.38PR
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but I believe the agents in Miami were in plain clothes and on foot when they approached. The idea was to surprise them, which is typical FBI thinking. The concealment factor played a role there
Then maybe the thing to do should have been track the criminals under the cover of plain clothes and unmarked cars rather than try to run them off the road and approach them (I think they cornered them or ran them off the road)
Then radio the local police to have nearby patrol cars (equipped with shotguns) standing by to make the arrest.

Quote:
They rarely ever inform us of an operation on our turf. So I can well believe that they never informed Miami Metro Dade PD of their operation.
And that might be why agents Gerald Dove and Benjamin Grogan are not alive today. It's to the FBI's benefit to cooperate as well. I believe the original intent of the FBI was to assist local law enforcement in investigations which would mean not only informing but working with local authorities. If I remember reading correctly, prior to the mid 30s they used to not be able to make an arrest or even carry arms without the local sheriff or police accompanying them. The rational was that people back then were worried about the FBI becoming a rogue national police force....wonder what ever gave them that idea Not that the FBI shouldn't be allowed to carry arms but from things like the Miami shootout and the personal event you describe we can see some of the wisdom in their thinking.
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Old February 13, 2007, 01:58 AM   #7
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This 'incident' played heavily in my academy training some two years after the fact. What I was shown was not a made for TV movie, but a documented training film - watched and critiqued by the surviving participants.

The FBI agents had long guns. Shotguns all around, in addition to their service weapons - some revolvers and some autopistols. Part of the problem was the shotguns and 'extra gear' was placed in the back seat of the sedans, typically on the floor. It was out of the way, not obvious, stayed put and was difficult to obtain without the luxury of parking the car and opening the back door.

I cannot remember which, but one villain was neutralized very early in the firefight. The other - the one who did the actual killing - was killed by the first FBI round that struck him. Unfortunately, it didn't kill him for about four minutes. (The first FBI shot fired tore off the tops of both lungs, a non-survivable wound. However, it did not incapacitate him.)

Watching the training film, hearing the Special Agents discussing the encounter, I was struck by one big factor: the FBI Agents were not mentally prepared to kill someone that day. Please don't let this sound like I'm belittling or making light of them or their actions, I'm not. The Agents were ready to find these two villains, to arrest them, to brave gunfire and to get the bad guys off the street. But they were not ready to kill. Lucky for us, they were ready by the end of the fight.

Matix and Platt were way past ready to kill. They had been for some long time.

I'm glad the FBI went to a larger caliber. (I'm not a 9x19 fan at all.) However, like many things done by our government(s), it was largely a public relations device. They 'did something to make our agents safer'. Actually, they did. But the biggest problem to overcome is the reluctance of a decent human being to kill another human being - without becoming a psychopath in the process.
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Old February 13, 2007, 10:59 AM   #8
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I think it fairly screams Patrol Rifle

I fear that prior to that event the opinion probably was that simply yelling FBI would end most confrontations

The right tools for the right job
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Old February 13, 2007, 03:05 PM   #9
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I wish people would stop referencing wikipedia .There are numerous better sources of analysis of the shootout . They had bad luck. they were mentally and physically unprepared for going up against BGs whom they KNEW were desparate heavily armed men !! They refused to admit they made any mistakes .The best thing that came out of it was the establishment of expansion and penetration criteria for ammo.
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Old February 13, 2007, 03:35 PM   #10
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Wow, we're still Monday morning quarterbacking this 21 years later?

As Mete noted, there is much better info than is available on the errornet. A recent book "Forensic Analysis of the Aprill 11 1986 FBI Firefight" by W. French Anderson, MD is but one example. It's available from Paladin Press.

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Old February 13, 2007, 04:28 PM   #11
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Excellent points mete. I wrote a long post with the same points but in greater detail then deleted w/o posting. My point was also they knew the history and level of training Platt and Matix had but chose to take them on w/o bringing more agents to bear.
The bad thing about Wikipedia is that you don't have to know what you are talking about to have input. That leads me to take almost everything I read there with a grain of salt.
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Old February 13, 2007, 04:35 PM   #12
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point was also they knew the history and level of training Platt and Matix had but chose to take them on w/o bringing more agents to bear.
There were more agents out there that day on the same surveillance. It's just they were out of pocket and not close enough to be useful. By the time the additional agents were able to get on scene the shooting was over. The other agents were carrying heavier weapons. In that situation it was just bad luck that the agents that had more effective weapons weren't the ones who spotted Platt and Matix first.
As far as "chose to take them on" it wasn't that simple. The agents didn't chose to take them on. They basically stumbled on to them as they were driving down the road. When the agents began to follow, Platt and Matix pulled over and that's when the shooting began. Platt and Matix picked the time and place, not the agents.
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Old February 13, 2007, 05:04 PM   #13
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Not according to the accounts I heard and read; the FBI rammed the suspects car.
Here is one of my sources. Please note that it is not from the internet, it is condensed from a book on the subject.
http://www.firearmstactical.com/briefs7.htm
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Old February 13, 2007, 05:04 PM   #14
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Bums me when I see fellow LEO chiding another Agency for what a few individuals do. All depts/agencies/offices have their fair share of clowns: PD/SO/FBI/DEA/ATF, etc. I too have been in a blue-on-bllue with 2 other agencies. They screwed up. But to say their whole organization sucks based on the actions of a few would be poor in judgement and taste.
But, I see this more and more with internet commandos (even the ones that wear the shield). MMQB, finger-pointing and bad-mouthing has become as pastime with these forums.
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Old February 13, 2007, 05:05 PM   #15
ISP2605
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Not according to the accounts I heard and read; the FBI rammed the suspects car.
Here is one of my sources. Please note that it is not from the internet, it is condensed from a book on the subject.
http://www.firearmstactical.com/briefs7.htm
I got my info from a briefing when I attended the NA. Heard from the guys who were there. Also, the FBI did an after action video which went to all field offices. It was not released to the public, certain LEO only.
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Old February 13, 2007, 05:16 PM   #16
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ISP:
Here is some more info, please note the source.
Quote:
Two FBI agents were killed and five wounded in Miami during a confrontation with robbery suspects at approximately 9:45 a.m. on April 11. Prior to the shootings, the Agents, along with officers of the Metro-Dade Police Department, were conducting a mobile surveillance, attempting to locate two males believed to have committed a number of violent bank and armored car robberies. Observing a vehicle matching the description of one that had been stolen and used in previous robberies, an attempt was made to stop the car. When the Agents in three FBI vehicles subsequently forced the suspects’ vehicle to a halt, two males, aged 32 and 34, emerged firing weapons. They used a 12-gauge shotgun with a modified pistol grip stock equipped to fire eight rounds; a .223-caliber semiautomatic rifle with 30 round magazine; and two .357-caliber handguns. The resultant gun battle left the two assailants and two Agents dead, as well as five Agents wounded. The victim Agents, both killed by rifle fire, were 53 and 30 years of age with 24 and 3 years of service, respectively. Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted, 1986. United States Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Uniform Crime Reports, Washington, D.C., 1986, p. 27.
I'm not attacking you, I just want to know if this is what used to be called a "sanitized" version of what happened? Like I said, every account I have seen said the encounter was initiated by the FBI.
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Old February 13, 2007, 05:22 PM   #17
ISP2605
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I'm not attacking you, I just want to know if this is what used to be called a "sanitized" version of what happened? Like I said, every account I have seen said the encounter was initiated by the FBI.
I wouldn't say "sanitiized" but just not explained in detail when he mentions making the stop. They were trying to get the other agents in position but just didn't happen.
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Old February 13, 2007, 09:51 PM   #18
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Given the mission and the suspects history, those FBI agents should have been carrying fully automatic weapons like Uzi submachine guns or similar offensive weapons. Like the guy said, they were not prepared to kill that day. But it was one of those occasional days that goes with the job. You don't get your money back.
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Old February 14, 2007, 06:23 AM   #19
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The L. factor

After reading the report by Massad Ayoob, I think that day better luck wouldn't hurt either. A lot of things that could go wrong or right went wrong.

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Old February 14, 2007, 10:55 AM   #20
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Bad tactics, poor planning, lackadaisical thinking and supervisorial ineptitude!

Bad tactics: During the "chase" of the suspects, the FBI tried to "box in" the suspects vehicle. That placed the lead and side vehicles in the line of fire. "Boxing in" with vehicles is a very tricky manuever, and the results are often disastrous (i.e., losing control of one or more vehicle, collissions, etc.)

Poor planning: The FBI agents were aware of the fact that the suspects had been armed with either semi-auto or select-fire rifles. Several of the agents were authorized issuance/usage of rifle-type weapons, but chose to only carry shotguns and handguns.

"Lackadaisical" thinking! The FBI agents thought that they were after "just some bank robbers"! Sorry to say, but the FBI had a "We are the FBI, and we can do ANYTHING!" attitude (Uh, sort of STILL present to this day!). One of the major problems with the FBI is that they recruit "College Grads", and rarely get former military or police personnel. The FBI training is excellent, but most "College Grads" are NOT "street wise".

Supervisorial ineptitude: The SAC (Special Agent in Charge), from what I've gathered, was a bit too easy going with the men he worked with. While the agents were required to have their body armor vests "available", the SAC didn't REQUIRE them to wear them during the incident. The SAC didn't hold an inspection of the agents on the morning of the incident, and probably figured that having shotguns and handguns was enough.

Also quite interesting was the lack of visible identification by the FBI agents! Many of the on-looker witnesses who saw the shoot-out taking place didn't know "who is who"! The first uniformed police officers to arrive didn't know, either!
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Old February 14, 2007, 11:02 AM   #21
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They thought female agents had trouble handling it, so they reduced the load to the point that it didn't match the .45 ACP. Somebody finally figured that out and they went to the .40.
Which is exactly why I refuse to buy a 40 short and weak. I call it a pansy gun. If an agent can't handle the equipment they need to be put in a position where they don't have to. Most can't handle a 10 or a 45 because they won't spend enough range time to perfect it. They should find another job or commit themselves to spending time on the range. A 10mm doesn't kick that hard. Going to a 40 short and weak defeats the reason they chose to up the power in the first place.
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Old February 14, 2007, 11:08 AM   #22
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A recent book "Forensic Analysis of the Aprill 11 1986 FBI Firefight" by W. French Anderson, MD is but one example. It's available from Paladin Press.

Denny
Absoultely. If it's worth the effort to argue about this event on the internet, it's worth the effort to get a copy of this work- and end the arguments. If you haven't read this, you need to get a copy.
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Old February 14, 2007, 11:35 AM   #23
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While the agents were required to have their body armor vests "available", the SAC didn't REQUIRE them to wear them during the incident.
Since the goon who did the most shooting was using a rifle (Ruger mini-14 .223) body armor wouldn't have done much good anyway (not that they shouldn't have been wearing it...but then they were trying to be inconspicuous which also explains why they weren't wearing any kind of visible ID on their clothing.)

Quote:
The SAC didn't hold an inspection of the agents on the morning of the incident, and probably figured that having shotguns and handguns was enough.
The inventory on Wikipedia of the incident says there was only one shotgun used by the agents. Somebody else in here said that the other cars did have shotguns in them, so why weren't they out and being used when the agents pounced on the goons?
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Old February 14, 2007, 01:07 PM   #24
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Somebody else in here said that the other cars did have shotguns in them, so why weren't they out and being used when the agents pounced on the goons?
IIRC they kept most of the long guns in the trunk, completely out of reach. Though I could be wrong.

Platt could have easily killed ALL of the FBI agents, however he was more interested in getting away after neutralizing, but not killing, all the immediate threats. Had he "known" he was dead anyway, he would have probably just gone around killing everyone before he finaly died.
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Old February 14, 2007, 03:11 PM   #25
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Not according to the accounts I heard and read; the FBI rammed the suspects car.
The agents boxed the vehicle in trying to stop it from escaping after they had been ID'd by the bad guys. No ramming per se, IIRC, but there was some contact.
Quote:
While the agents were required to have their body armor vests "available", the SAC didn't REQUIRE them to wear them during the incident.
Pretty standard for the FBI at that time. Body armor for most feds (and a number of street cops) was something you put on when you were headed out for trouble, not something you wore all the time.
Quote:
Somebody else in here said that the other cars did have shotguns in them, so why weren't they out and being used when the agents pounced on the goons?
Because the agents hadn't intended to pounce on the goons. The FBI wasn't ready for a shootout, and hadn't planned on a shootout. They were out doing surveillance, with the idea that they would follow the BGs home, then get a team in to take them down. That was fairly standard procedure. Just didn't work out this time. French's book, BTW, is generally considered the best source of what happened during the actual gunfight, but there is some dispute over the events leading up to it.
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