This week, 33 years ago, on July 11, 1979, at about 12:30 PM, three Colombian assassins entered the Crown Liquors store at the Dadeland Mall in Southwest Miami-Dade. They were there to murder a business rival of cocaine queen Griselda Blanco (aka La Madrina/The Godmother). They succeeded, shooting the man and his bodyguard dead, and also wounding the store manager and a stock boy who had the misfortune of being scheduled to work that day.
On their way out the door, the hit men indiscriminately sprayed the crowded parking lot with gunfire from a variety of weapons, including revolvers and machine guns. As they ran out of ammo, they tossed the weapons to the ground like empty beer bottles, and continued firing with fresh reinforcements from their waistbands.
In all, 86 rounds were fired. The ground was littered with bullet casings of countless calibers.
The medical examiner described the two corpses as resembling “Swiss cheese.”
This unprecedented, brazen, public display of violence—high noon on a summer weekday at the city’s busiest shopping center with women and children all around—was led by a new breed of Miamian: illegal Colombian immigrants who imported a brand of la violencia inspired by a bloody, decade-long civil war during their childhoods that claimed nearly 200,000 lives.
The Miami media dubbed these ruthless killers the Cocaine Cowboys, and thus began the “Cocaine Wars” that transformed our once sleepy seaside town into the drug, money laundering, and murder capital of America.
Just like the Jimmy Buffett song says, we’re “Growing Older But Not Up.”
Welcome to This Week in Florida.
- Liberty City (not the fictitious Grand Theft Auto town, but one of Miami’s toughest neighborhoods) is in the midst of a gang war, according to panicked community leaders. In recent months, the community has been plagued by drive-by shootings and brutal drug-related street assassinations.
- Early this week a car carrying three shooting victims pulled up to a Florida highway patrolman who was handling a fender bender on the side of the road. “All three of my passengers have just been shot,” the driver said. “Please help us!” It happened on Miami’s 826 Freeway, known as the Palmetto Expressway (as far as I know, the only highway in America named for a cockroach).
- Here in Florida, it’s not just outlaws who open fire in public places. A cop shot at some guys who attempted to use a (possibly) fraudulent credit card at a Miami-Dade Best Buy when they jumped into a car and tried to flee. In the cop’s defense, he says they tried to run him over. The case is still being investigated.
- Last week, I referenced the much-ballyhooed real estate “recovery” in Florida. This week, Forbes released their list of America’s top foreclosure capitals and Florida has captured six of the top ten spots (including numbers one and two) and eight of the top 20.
- Broward Sheriff’s investigators discovered an emaciated 14-year old boy in Deerfield Beach and arrested his father for child cruelty. While he may have been deprived of food, there was ample supply of other South Florida necessities: the boy was found to have overdosed on cocaine, marijuana, and a smorgasbord of other drugs.
- The worst tuberculosis outbreak in America in 20 years occurred in Jacksonville in April but was kept secret until now because Florida officials were busy shutting down the state’s top TB hospital while the victims, mostly poor black men, died.
- Here’s a refreshing change of pace: A West Palm Beach Catholic priest was accused of… shoplifting. Surveillance cameras twice caught Father Giuseppe Savaia at the Neiman Marcus store at a Boca Raton mall stuffing inanimate objects (not boys) into his pants.
- This week, 191 years ago, on July 10, 1821, Spain turned possession of Florida over to the United States. Every year around this time, the US looks for the damned receipt and hopes Spain has a 200-year return policy.
- Florida is also the capital of corrupt teachers union leaders: Last decade, United Teachers of Dade president Pat Tornillo pleaded guilty to misusing $500,000 in union cash for personal expenses and, this week, Broward Teachers Union chief Pat Santeramo was busted for stealing $165,000.
- To Catch A Weatherman: We also lead the nation in local TV meteorologists busted for sex (or attempted sex) with underage boys. Last decade, it was Miami’s Bill Kamal and just this week, Palm Beach’s Rob Lopicola.
- Here’s a video of an alleged jaywalker with a big mouth getting Tased by Casselberry cops. Ordinarily, this would piss me off one way, but this particular incident pisses me off the other way. Give it a watch and maybe you’ll see what I mean?
- Every so often, a story comes along that reaffirms your faith in our justice system. This is not one of those. A Florida judge ruled this week that the Octomom’s strip show must go on. Nadya Suleman backed out of a topless gig at one West Palm Beach club and then made a deal with another—pissing off the first venue, which filed a breach-of-all-that-is-decent-and-pure-in-the-world lawsuit against her.
- It’s been a shitty week for America’s shittiest airline, Spirit, headquartered in shitty-ish Miramar, Florida. First, a red-eye flight from Los Angeles to Fort Lauderdale took nearly 24 hours. Then, a Florida veteran who was once denied a refund by the airline after he was too sick to fly, passed away. But, what do they care? They recently revealed that, in the first three months of 2012, they generated $38 million on baggage fees alone.
- This week, for the first time in 50 years, a boat with humanitarian aid sailed directly from Miami to Cuba. And, of course, people in Miami are pissed about it. I’m just waiting for Ozzie Guillen to chime in.
- Thanks to nonexistent oversight and really bad math, taxpayers in Palm Beach are left holding the bill for a stalled $150 million jail expansion that, six years later, has netted the county 218 fewer beds than they started with. So they spent $657,894 for each lost bed. I coulda done it for half that.
- If there's one thing we get right in Florida, it's not giving too much to the poor: Florida is receiving a $9.1 million bonus from the federal government for having the nation's second-lowest error rate in distributing food stamps to help struggling families buy groceries. Now state legislators must decide how to misuse the money.
Previously – We Accept Used Enemas