A black BMW turned out to be the key for a team of law enforcement officials to trace and arrest Michael Gonzalez and Clifton Lamothe, as South Florida's so-called Ninja robbers.
Agents staged a traffic stop on the two men on Ocean Drive in Hollywood Friday night, as they were escaping the latest armed robbery at a Dania Beach convenience store. That robbery was the first since agents learned which car the two used and traced it to Lamothe.
He and Gonzalez are believed to be behind a surveillance-taped spree of more than a dozen increasingly violent robberies at convenience stores and gas stations from northeastern Miami-Dade to southeastern Broward Counties.
READ: Criminal complaint
After a heist August 26 at a BP gas station in North Miami Beach, agents got the first glimpse of the black BMW and positively identified the men inside as the Ninja robbers. They ran the tag, which came right back to Lamothe.
The federal complaint shows how agents got a warrant to put a tracer on the car. That tracer placed the duo at Friday's Dania Beach robbery, and into the arrest trap.
During the traffic stop, Gonzalez got out of the passenger's side of the car and made an action that caused an Aventura police officer to shoot. Though he was hit, Gonzalez recovered fully enough to appear in federal court Monday with no sign of injury.
An arrest form Local 10 discovered from August 12, shows Aventura police had stopped Lamothe in his BMW that morning for an expired tag, then arrested him for having cocaine and illegal prescriptions. But a Miami-Dade judge released him the next day on his own recognizance, not realizing his ties to the Ninja case.
Lamothe and Gonzalez are accused in at least seven more armed robberies since that date.
Gonzalez's girlfriend tearfully told Local 10 she thought he and Lamothe were going out for drinks and grocery shopping Friday night, until police told her he had been arrested and shot by an officer.
"I just want to know what's going on," said Angela Federico. "I'm just blindsided by all of this."
The clerk at the Dania Beach store they hit was just learning how many crimes the two are accused of doing.
"I'm glad they caught them," he said.