Miami, FL - Running Police Cruiser - Part Of Dignitary Protection Detail - Stolen - Crashed Into Other Police Cruisers During Chase Inside Port Miami Tunnel - Extensive Damage

May 4, 2015

A stolen police cruiser has been recovered and the suspect allegedly behind the theft has been arrested after the driver crashed inside the Port Miami Tunnel.
Surveillance video provided by Miami-Dade Police showed the inside of the Port Miami tunnel and a view of the suspect, Russell McGruder, who has a criminal history. The video also showed Miami-Dade Police chasing after McGruder on foot.

The police cruiser was towed out of the tunnel just before 1 p.m. Monday, and the suspected thief, identified as 34-year-old McGruder, was transported to Jackson Memorial Hospital with minor injuries. According to Miami-Dade Police, the suspect has an extensive criminal history, and with this stunt, will have a couple other charges added to that list, including the theft of a police car.

According to Miami-Dade Police, the cruiser was stolen from an officer who was part of a dignitary protection detail, just after 8:30 a.m., protecting Julian Castro, the United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, at a Downtown hotel. Miami-Dade Police spokesperson Alvaro Zabaleta said, "As the dignitary was getting ready to come down towards the vehicle is when a subject enters the police car and flees. A chase immediately ensues. Obviously, when anybody takes a police car, we don't know what their intentions may be."

Zabaleta said the subject in the cruiser headed southbound on Biscayne Boulevard, and the pursuit continued on Interstate 395 and then into the Port Miami Tunnel, which heightened the stakes even further. Zabaleta said, "Of course now the officers know that we now have an individual trying to utilize a patrol vehicle to gain access to a secured infrastructure, a restricted area, and they had to utilize all preventative and corrective measures in order for that threat not to gain access to the restricted areas."

It ended in a crash involving another police cruiser inside the tunnel and a large truck. The suspect tried to take off on foot and sprayed pursing officers with some type of substance. Zabaleta said, "Once they made contact with him, he then pulls out a can that produces some type of chemical spray, exposes the officers with it, a physical altercation ensues, and the officers had to utilize all necessary use of force in order to take him into custody." The responding officers did not sustain any injuries.

Cell phone video from inside the tunnel caught the altercation as police apprehended McGruder.

MDPD officials said that the protocol for protecting a dignitary is to keep the patrol car running while the officer is standing outside, so when the dignitary gets into their vehicle, the officer will have quick access and follow them. In this case, it was somebody else who jumped in the car.

Investigators had to block off parts of the westbound and eastbound entrances to the tunnel as police investigated the scene. Zabaleta once again emphasized the presumed threat of the actions of the suspect. "You have an individual that took a marked police vehicle and is going at a high rate of speed into the tunnel that leads into a sensitive, restrictive area, which is the Port Miami," he said.

The tunnel has since been reopened and traffic is being let through. "We still have no idea what his intentions were onto the Port. What he did, what he had to do," said Zabaleta.

There have been several cases of stolen police cruisers in the last few months. In April, a man stole a Miami Police cruiser outside of a Jackson Memorial Hospital and later arrested when he returned the vehicle from where he took it. The same month, a taxi driver was accused of stealing a Miami Police cruiser and shooting at police and bystanders before he was shot and taken into custody.

The investigation into this latest police cruiser theft remains ongoing. McGruder faces multiple charges and is being held on $25,500 bond. The name of the hotel where the theft occurred has not yet been released.