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.
In a case such as this it would not be surprising for the prosecution to try and introduce evidence of the other acts or crimes allegedly committed by these alleged perpetrators to try and show their state of mind, opportunity to commit the crime, or common plan scheme or design or lack of accident or mistake on their part; such evidence commonly referred to as Williams Rule Evidence in the State Courts or Rule 404(b) evidence in the Federal Courts corresponding to the Rule of evidence it relates to is commonly used by prosecutors to prove such matters in the case in chief and to prove the above although such evidence is prohibited as it relates to a defendant’s bad character.
A skilled trial lawyer should be prepared to argue against the admissibility of this “other crime evidence” on this basis.
Although the evidence described may appear convincing, it is up to the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that all of the defendants are guilty of the actual charges brought against them in the case in chief. Eye witness testimony is often unreliable and the charges brought against some of the co-defendants who did not pull the trigger may result in less serious charges or a decision not to prosecute them at all.
Mr. Cohen is a board certified criminal trial lawyer rated AV by Martindale Hubbel (pre-eminent) and a “Super Lawyer” recognized as being in the top 5% of his specialized field (criminal trial law) among Florida lawyers. He is considered a specialist by the Florida Bar in his field. Mr. Cohen has tried scores of cases over his 35 year career and is a member of the Florida and New York Bars. He is also admitted to practice in the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh and Second Circuit.
If you need an experienced attorney who is well-versed in all aspects of Medicare litigation, visit the Criminal Defense Law Firm of Michael B. Cohen, P.A. Online at https://southflalaw.com or call us at: 954-928-0059.