MIAMI - It happens nearly five times a day somewhere in America. In Florida, it happens more often, and, it is among the costliest crimes in this country and among the most dangerous to police -- train robberies.
Railway bandits are riding high and pulling off brazen heists and inflicting serious damage on the nation's economy and its officers.
"We try to stop it as much as we can," said Raul Guerra, a Special Agent with the Florida East Coast Railway. "But it's such a wide spread area to cover that it can't be stopped. It can just be contained for now."
Guerra is on the front lines. He's responsible for patrolling the tracks from the Port of Miami north to Martin County, an 88 mile stretch that he does alone.
"What they try to do is stop the train so they can break into the containers and trailers that are on the train," Guerra told Local 10 Crime Specialist John Turchin.
Turchin road shotgun in Guerra's pickup truck recently as Guerra gave Turchin the lay of the land during one of his daily 12-hour shifts. The two rode parallel to the tracks with Guerra navigating through the darkness and rocky terrain.
"They put old bicycle frames, spare tires, boulders, the dumpsters that belong to the businesses out here - they put em on the tracks to try and stop the trains," Guerra explained. "My job is to stop them from doing that."
That might seem like a tall order for Guerra, who stands just 5 foot 3 inches and weights 137 pounds. But, he is no push over. Guerra is a second-degree black belt in jiu-jitsu and worked as a former Brevard Sheriff's Office deputy for seven years, giving him years of experience in dealing with those intent on breaking the law.
Earlier this month, he came upon four men ready to rob the next train, the 101 South out of Jacksonville. The area was near Northeast 2nd Avenue and 72nd Street in Miami-Dade.
"As I was driving down, I see them scatter in different directions," Guerra told Turchin, as the two got out of the pickup and walked to a rocky embankment a few feet from the train tracks.
"I exited the vehicle and see one of them. He's in a fetal position here, " Guerra said, pointing to a steel box the man was hiding behind. "I said 'What are you doing here?' So, he says 'Huh' or 'What?'"
That's when Guerra, one hand on his holstered handgun and directly behind the man, ordered the man to walk to his truck.
"He takes the first step with his left. He takes the second one with his right –- and he just comes at me with something. I didn't see anything in his hand. He slashes me. I thought it was a punch. I tried to block," said Guerra.
The man took off running. Guerra ran, too, to his truck to get a shirt to wrap around his wound to stop the bleeding. It was long and deep. He immediately radioed for help.
Within a minute or so, Guerra said the cavalry was there, referring to the dozens of police officers from various jurisdictions.
He was taken to North Shore Medical Center. where he was treated and released, but not before being sewn up with fifteen stitches.
"I believe he was trying to kill me, trying to hit my face or my neck area," Guerra said.
Fortunately, he didn't.
"It's a cut. It could've been worse," said Guerra. "It's just part of the job. It's a regular day here trying to do my job and protect the train and people around it. Just lucky. Really lucky."
Miami police have released a composite sketch of the man who attacked Special Agent Guerra.
The attacker is described as being between 18 - 22-years old, standing 5'10'' - 5'11' with a slim build, brown eyes, and black hair.
If you have information on the crime, call Miami police at 305-603-6350.
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