A Palm Beach County deputy is in the hospital and an MS-13 gang member is dead after a shootout during an undercover drug sting in Palm Beach Gardens, the latest in a trend of increasing violence toward police that’s not likely to improve any time soon.
Local law enforcement officials contend the Trump administration recently announced plans to transfer up to 500 illegal immigrants per month from the southern border to Florida’s Palm Beach and Broward counties to help deal with a massive influx of folks attempting to enter the U.S.
The immigrants, who told Border Patrol Florida is their final destination, will be processed through federal facilities at the Port of Palm Beach and released into a community already struggling with crime and public health problems as they await adjudication of their asylum claims, Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw told WPEC.
The gang shooting and Trump immigration announcement occurred on the same day, a coincidence that portends violence, homelessness and other problems will likely only get worse in the near future.
The suspect in the drug shootout was a known MS-13 gang member who lived in the Turnberry Apartments, where undercover officers arranged to meet for a sting operation Thursday night.
Bradshaw told WPEC a drug team comprised of deputies from different departments, the DEA and FBI, swarmed the gang member in a vehicle and he fired two or three rounds at an undercover deputy who was approaching the driver’s side of the car.
One of the rounds struck the 29-year-old deputy in his orbital bone above his cheek, requiring surgeries, but he is expected to live. The bullet actually lodged in his face.
“He’s a lucky man,” Bradshaw said, adding that it was the deputy’s birthday the night of the shooting.
The gang member, who has a lengthy criminal history including prison stints for firearms violations, did not live.
Officers returned fire and killed him inside the vehicle. They did not identify the man.
“Bottom line is, you see all these law enforcement officers across the country that are getting killed every single day because these gang members and these people out here, they don’t have the slightest hesitation to kill a law enforcement officer anymore,” Bradshaw said.
“It was almost unheard of 20 years ago. It was like everybody is in aw that a law enforcement officer was killed. Now, it’s become commonplace and it’s got to stop.”
Bradshaw’s comments followed a press conference earlier in the day in which he and other Democrats railed against Trump’s plan to relocate about 500 illegal immigrants per month to both Broward and Palm Beach counties.
“Not a good plan,” Bradshaw said.
“Our resources are already stretched in this community,” he said. “We’re dealing with Hepatitis A outbreak, we’re dealing with measles outbreaks so to take this type of influx of illegal immigrants from another location and to bring them to Palm Beach County is not only a public safety problem, because we don’t know what the backgrounds on these people are, we don’t know what documentation the Border Patrol has to identify who they are or what their criminal background is, if any, and they’re just going to walk into the community.
“We think it’s a danger to this community and it’s going to put a real strain on what the resources are,” Bradshaw said at an afternoon press conference, flanked by Palm Beach County Mayor Mack Bernard, Broward County Mayor Mark Bogen and other officials.