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Suspect identified after Miami Gardens police officer 'ambushed,' shot

Officer David Starling taken to Aventura Hospital; FBI investigating

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – A Miami Gardens police officer was ambushed and shot Friday morning while sitting in his patrol car writing a crash report, Chief Antonio Brooklen said.

The shooting happened near Northwest 183rd Street and Northwest Seventh Avenue.

Brooklen said the officer was filling out the report when a black BMW sport utility vehicle passed by and the driver "backed up and ambushed the officer."

The officer was struck once, but he got on his police radio, called for backup and gave a description of the SUV, Brooklen said.

As other officers joined the pursuit, the suspect "leaned out the window with a firearm and began to fire at the officers," Brooklen said.

The SUV crashed at Northwest 183rd Street and Northwest 32nd Avenue. The suspect ran off but was later caught in a nearby backyard, Brooklen said.

Police identified the officer as David Starling, an eight-year veteran of the Miami Gardens Police Department.

Starling was taken to Aventura Hospital. Brooklen said the officer is expected to survive.

"None of our officers discharged any weapon because we didn't have an opportunity to," Brooklen said. "The officer was ambushed."

The suspect was identified as David Mejia, 24, of Aventura. He was arrested on multiple charges, including attempted murder of a law enforcement officer, aggravated assault and aggravated battery with a deadly weapon.

"If you have that much hate and aggression to attempt to assassinate a police officer … there's no justification for it," Brooklen said.

Local 10 News has learned that the FBI is at the Miami Gardens Police Department to question the suspect about the possibility that the shooting was a terrorist act. This comes just a few weeks after a suspect in the shooting of a Philadelphia police officer claimed he was acting in the name of Islam.

However, Brooklen said he doesn't believe the shooting is terror-related.

The shooting was particularly concerning for a woman who was working at a nearby laundromat. She told Local 10 News reporter Layron Livingston that her daughter works in law enforcement.

"That could have been my child out there," the woman, who asked not to be identified, told Local 10 News.

Starling worked for the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office from 1989 to 1999 before joining the Miami Gardens Police Department. His family was preparing to travel to South Florida from the Jacksonville area after the shooting to be with Starling at the hospital.

"It's in his blood," Starling's father, David "Leroy" Starling Sr., told Local 10 News reporter Derek Shore in a telephone interview.

The elder Starling, who spent 25 years with the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, said his son followed in his footsteps.

"We pray for him every day," he said. "You know, that's about all you can do."

Dade County Police Benevolent Association President John Rivera spoke to Local 10 News reporter Erica Rakow after visiting Starling in the hospital.

"He's in good spirits," Rivera said. "He's a little angry. He's a little concerned. He's also concerned for his fellow officers."

Rivera said Starling was shot in the buttocks. He said the officer is lucky to be alive.

"The streets are mean," he said. "Miami-Dade County is a violent, violent place to work and to live and to play."