Articles Posted in Armed Robbery/Homicide

A bartender was shot and killed during an armed robbery that took place at Josephine’s Restaurant located at 5751 N. Federal Highway in Boca Raton. The robbery occurred after the restaurant was closed for the evening although a few remaining customers were present at the time along with the owner and some employees.

Officers arrived at the scene shortly before midnight finding Rafael Rodriguez in a critical state after being shot by one of the culprits. Once given descriptions of the suspects, police began their search for four masked gunmen. Customers and employees described the men being black and/or Hispanic. The forensic team was able to lift shoe prints which they assumed belonged to one or more of the suspects
Boca Raton police spokeswoman Sandra Boonenberg said that as Rodriguez was walking one of the restaurant’s employees to the back door to let him out, four masked gunmen forcefully gained access to the restaurant and demanded cash and valuables from the lingering customers and employees. As the thieves prepared to leave, Rodriguez confronted them. They fought with him and his coworker, pushing them to the floor while pistol-whipping the waiter. Rodriguez responded by trying to defend himself and the waiter when one of the suspects pulled his weapon and shot the bartender, mortally wounding him.

“The bartender engaged them in some way inside the restaurant, and he got shot and killed”, Boonenberg said. He was taken to Delray Medical Center, where he later died of his injuries.

Various items were taken during the robbery, including cash, wallets, phones, and jewelry. In particular, a $20,000 Chopard watch was taken from the owner of the restaurant. It was this item that would ultimately lead police to tie the suspects to the robbery/murder during the course of their investigation.

Police began searching for the suspects since the commission of the crime and have followed several leads since the beginning of the New Year.

Last week, three Broward County men who have been identified as Quinton Sylvestre, Samuel Walker and Adalberto Montalvo have been formally charged with armed robbery and first-degree murder in connection with the shooting.

Boca Raton police said it was the Chopard watch stolen during the robbery that led them to the suspects and linked them to the occurrence.

The person who bought the stolen watch from the suspects was tracked down by detectives. They interviewed him and then recovered the watch. The buyer was able to give the detectives facts about the suspects and the watch’s sale was caught on the store’s video surveillance system, according to Boca Raton Police Chief Dan Alexander. Police were then able to watch the surveillance footage of the sale determining that the men who peddled it to him matched the description of the robbers.
Detectives obtained phone records for two of the subjects who sold the watch, Adalberto Montalvo and Quinton Sylvestre. Through the course of the investigation police were able to conclude through analysis of these phone records that Montalvo and Sylvestre made calls the night before the robber/murder, as well as the night the crime occurred with a phone that belonged to Samuel Walker. Detectives also established that all three phones were in Boca Raton, in the area of Josephine’s during the time of the robbery.

Search warrants were then executed
During a search of their homes, police found a backpack filled with guns and a hockey mask, detectives said. They also found that the shoe prints found at the scene of the restaurant robbery did in fact match the soles of one of the pairs of shoes seized by police.

Detectives received endorsement from the firearms lab that one of the guns recovered was the one that fired the bullet that is responsible for the death of Rafael Rodriguez. Additionally, it was proved that it is Walker’s DNA that was found on the trigger of the gun. His DNA was also found on the expensive stolen watch.

The suspects were arrested in late January on an unrelated burglary charge. The subsequent investigation tied them to the robbery at Josephine’s and the murder of Rafael Rodriguez. Police used state of the art DNA testing equipment as well as the aforementioned cell phone tracking devices to place the men at the scene of the crime.

Click here to view the official Boca Raton Police Press Release:

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The Prosecution began to get their case prepared against Dennis Escobar, the strength of it being his confession to Miami homicide detectives from a California jail hospital bed, where he was wounded after a clash there with California highway patrol troopers.

Escobar got an unanticipated reprieve from the death penalty for the second time in 18 years in his first-degree murder case where he killed Miami police officer Victor Estefan in 1988. His brother, Douglas Escobar, 53, who was already wanted on robbery charges at the time, was the driver of a stolen car that he was driving, who allegedly told his brother to shoot the officer and was his codefendant in the original case.

Although jurors convicted the Escolars’ in 1991, the Florida Supreme Court threw out the convictions in 1997, stating that the original trial judge should have permitted the two brothers to be tried in separate court cases.

The original incident transpired when Victor Estefan, a Miami police officer was finishing a conversation in Little Havana after a traffic stop with a tow truck driver. Another vehicle without its headlights on drove past the two, catching Estefan’s attention.
The officer then left the scene, jumping into his police cruiser and following what he deemed to be a suspicious vehicle. It wasn’t long after those gunshots penetrated the night.

Dennis Escobar’s most recent reprieve arose when an unlabeled audiotape was found on February 17 by a retired City of Miami homicide detective who was preparing to testify in the case. As reported by the Miami Herald, the now retired officer was going through an evidence box where he found the tape that apparently exhibited that Escobar had asked for a lawyer in Spanish, before allegedly confessing as he was being interrogated nearly 20 years ago.

The Herald described the tape as a bombshell since it seemingly contradicts earlier testimony that Escobar voluntarily spoke with the detective without a lawyer. The tape was recently turned over to the defense. In lieu of this new evidence, the prosecution offered both brothers plea deals in exchange for pleading guilty which would have a term of 55-years in prison but with a minimum penalty of 18 years for each of them. Both brothers were facing potential death sentences if either was convicted of the capital murder.

On Wednesday both the prosecution and defense had agreed to request a mistrial in the case against Dennis Escobar, but Judge Leon Firtel made the decision not to grant it. He was quoted as saying “I don’t want to deny the defendant his rights but this judge has an obligation to the State of Florida to get this case to trial after 15 years.”

It was at that time that Douglas Escobar recoiled when it came time to agree to the deal due to the judges ruling. “I didn’t shoot no one,” he told the Miami-Dade Circuit Judge. “I don’t want to plead guilty.”
After the outburst, the judge reset the continuance of the hearing for Monday, telling the defendant’s lawyers to speak further with their clients about the deal over the weekend.

When the case resumed on Monday, it was a different atmosphere, as Douglas Escobar settled on the plea deal. Two court-appointed mental health experts granted that he was competent to stand trial, as written in a later Miami Herald article. Conversely, with the weekend to weigh his options, Dennis Escobar said he wishes to face a trial. He is again facing the death penalty if convicted.

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After serving two years for an armed robbery, Willie Barney was released from state prison in July. The crime spree began a short time later, investigators say.

Willie Barney, 19, Dedrick Brown, 20 and Travares Santiago, 20, were arrested on Sept. 23 after police say they robbed and shot Officer Herman Joseph, sparking a massive manhunt.

Joseph, a six year veteran of the Miami-Dade Police Department was off-duty, doing volunteer maintenance work on Saturday, Sept. 22nd at the Union Christian Bible church, 6701 NW Seventh Ave, in the little Haiti neighborhood adjacent to Liberty city when three men approached him in the parking lot. They demanded his jewelry and then shot him in the chest with a .45-caliber pistol. As the shot was fired, Officer Joseph quickly rotated his body, most likely saving him from being critically injured.

Joseph managed to call 911, telling the dispatcher “Ok, uh. Stop me at 3-15 at 6701 NW 7th Avenue. Off-duty officer shot.” The reference to a 3-15 is police code for an emergency, need assistance immediately. After the dispatcher asked the officer to tell her his name, and which Police Agency he worked for, fire rescue was sent to the scene and Officer Joseph was taken to the hospital. The officer was released from the hospital a few days later.

Joseph described his assailants as “three black males about five foot 7 or five foot 8, light complexion”. He also told the dispatcher that they were all wearing black clothing.
Click here to listen to the entire 911 exchange and the 911 dispatcher’s subsequent call for assistance from fire rescue

Officer Joseph’s concise description of his attackers has now been linked to a string of robberies, and at least one murder. Although Joseph stated that the men left on foot, police began their search for a maroon Pontiac that was used in other crimes that fit the description given by Officer Joseph of the three men.

On Aug. 9, three men robbed a man who was working on his truck in the Brownsville section of Miami, south of Hialeah. Jewelry and his cell phone were taken. The victim identified the men as the same corresponding to Officer Joseph’s portrayal.

On Sept. 18, police say at least two of the same three men robbed Barrington Kerr, 55, and another man in the 300 block of Northwest 190th Street. The men stole Kerr’s chain, and then shot him, leading to his death, according to a Miami Gardens police report.

Another unspecified man was shot in the incident. He survived and identified Barney and Brown as his attackers. Since Santiago was known as the usual driver of the getaway vehicle it is suspected that he was more than likely involved in this crime as well. Police believe it was 19-year-old Barney who pulled the trigger.

On Sept. 20, the same men apparently robbed a Miami Shores man who was in front of his home mowing his lawn. A neighbor, who chased the car, was able to make a note of the license plate number and describe the vehicle to police as a maroon Pontiac.

The three suspects were captured in the Pontiac shortly after the last shooting.

In a Thursday afternoon news conference State Attorney’s Katherine Fernandez Rundle said “We call them the “Crime Spree Trio,” and also said “It took a lot of work in connecting the dots.”

Fernandez Rundle also said the three men showed no regard for human life when they robbed their victims. “Two victims, in two of the separate incidents purported that gunman Willie Barney had the look of death in his eyes as he pointed the gun at them,” said Fernandez-Rundle.

Barney is no stranger to the law. When he was 16, he was arrested for armed robbery and was sentenced to one year in prison as a “youthful offender,” court records show.

The three men are now facing a number of very serious charges after prosecutors say they are now able to tie them to at least five violent robberies, and a murder; their actions culminating in the shooting of Officer Joseph. The charges are expected to include murder, attempted murder, aggravated battery and armed robbery.

Police have also charged the men with another robbery dating back to late July.

Detectives from three separate police agencies; Hollywood, Pembroke Pines and Hialeah are investigating other robberies possibly linked to the threesome.

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