79ºF

North Miami Beach police officer shot while serving search warrant

A bullet proof vest helped save North Miami Beach officer Lino Diaz, chief says

NORTH MIAMI BEACH, Fla. – A woman and a man are in police custody after a veteran North Miami Beach police officer was shot early Friday morning, police said.

North Miami Beach police Detective Lino Diaz was serving a search warrant when he was shot twice, just above his left knee and left arm, police said.

"Prior to making actual entry [to the house], there were shots fired at the officer,"North Miami Beach Police Chief J. Scott Dennis said. Neighbor Moses Tanis said he was with a child waiting for a school bus nearby when the shooting happened.

"I hear boom boom boom and then I see lighting, like lighting (swish sounds)," Tanis said. "And then, I back up and run back inside."

Diaz -- an experienced decorated member of the Special Weapons And Tactical team -- dropped to the ground when he was shot. He wasn't alone. He was part of an federal operation related to a case of unemployment fraud, police said.

About 6:10 a.m., Diaz was shot outside of a fenced one-story house, 16033 NE 8 Ave., near Oak Grove Elementary School. Law enforcement had been watching that house for weeks.

"We did have some information that this was a very dangerous house we were approaching," North Miami Beach Maj. Kathy Katerman said. She added that some fraud cases are often "gang related -- carrying heavy arms."

The North Miami Beach SWAT team and police officers from North Miami Beach, Aventura and Miami-Dade surrounded the house. There were armored cars and snipers. After a few hours, negotiators persuaded a man and a woman to exit the house, police said.

Records show Ivylyn Beverly Cassar is the owner of the two bedroom home. Elton Bandoo, who is a resident at the home, and an unidentified woman were held at the North Miami Beach police department for most of the day. Bandoo runs Major Currency Entertainment, an independent hip-hop music label that according to Local 10 News sources was suspected of working with Haitian-American Zoe Pound gang members.

Katerman said they watched some of their rap videos during the investigation.

After Diaz, 47, was shot, fellow officers got him to safety. Miami-Dade Fire Rescue airlifted him to Jackson Memorial Hospital's Ryder Trauma Center. As of 5:30 p.m., he was in stable condition and doctors said he could be released in three days.

"The bullet to his leg was through and through, but the one in his arm is still there," Katerman said, while adding that Diaz's arm wound was going to require some surgery. A few hours later, North Miami Beach Mayor George Vallejo said he may not require surgery.

Diaz has been working with North Miami Beach since 1998. His superiors have awarded him "officer of the month" four times, most recently in 2012. Suhaill Diaz, the wounded officer's sister, said he had always wanted to be a police officer and described him as a "warrior"  and a a "fighter"

"We are really proud of him," the officer's father, Faustino Diaz, said.

Several of his colleagues, Vallejo, Police Chaplain Yerochom Bensinger and City Manager Ana M. Garcia said they visited Diaz at the hospital. Garcia said she gave him a hug and a kiss, and will extend benefits during his recovery.

"If it hadn't been for his training, the protective gear he was issued and his warrior like mentality, we would be having a much different press conference right now," Dennis said Friday morning. He added that a bullet vest helped to save Diaz's life.

Follow Local 10 News on Twitter @WPLGLocal10

31130248