As police confronted Antonio Cardoza, armed and barricaded in his home, onlookers were slack-jawed at the sight of a tank-like vehicle with turrets and sharpshooters that was stalking the neighborhood.
Twenty feet long, weighing close to eight tons, capable of nimble turns and hitting highway speeds, the imposing militarized machine trekked along Northeast 204th Street as negotiators tried to get Cardoza to stand down.
He didn’t, and was shot during an exchange of gunfire, then taken to Jackson Memorial Hospital where he remains in stable condition.
Two days later, the machine showed up in another residential neighborhood in Miami Gardens, less than a mile from where Cardoza was shot. This time, police spent more than six hours trying to talk Franklin Bain — wanted for false imprisonment and sexual battery — out of his home.
Cardoza was shot and Bain was tear-gassed from his home, but no officers were hurt in either incident —and that’s the point: The Miami-Dade County Police Department’s Bearcat is outfitted with enough body armor to withstand high-powered rifle shots and explosions, and carries enough weaponry to overpower most threats.
“When I saw it, I thought somebody’s gonna die,” said Amp Sheffield, 30, a neighbor of Cardoza’s who watched the confrontation unfold. “They going to war or something?”
The police department’s use of the Bearcat, at first, appeared to be top secret. Though the machine is now being used by federal and local law enforcement throughout country, county cops treated its uses with the sensitivity of a nuclear launch code.
“The information you are requesting regarding the deployment, use and criteria is information that is sensitive in nature and cannot be discussed,” Detective Elena Hernandez said.
Later, after several requests for information, county police owned up to having purchased three of the machines, two SuperBear Coms and a Bearcat.