End of Watch: Sunday, April 2, 1978
Age: 42 / Tour: 12 years / Cause: Gunfire
Officer Louis Pena was shot and killed after stopping a stolen car where the driver had just run a red light.
Officer Pena performed a routine traffic stop, unaware that the vehicle was stolen by a parolee. He remained in his patrol car with his K-9, “Abe”, as another officer parked on the opposite side of the road as backup. The driver of the stolen vehicle approached Officer Pena and refused to produce identification, giving a false name.
The suspect returned to the vehicle multiple times while Officer Pena communicated the details over his radio.
When dispatch gave Officer Pena the name of the vehicle’s owner, the suspect returned to the vehicle to talk to the passenger. As the passenger exited the vehicle, the suspect returned and shot Officer Pena through the patrol car’s open window, striking him in the neck. The suspect then turned and shot the other officer, who was saved by his vest.
Officer Pena was able to radio that he had been shot. When other officers and paramedics arrived, K-9 Abe was guarding him. Officer Pena was taken to Coral Gables Hospital where he succumbed to his wounds about an hour later.
Both suspects were later apprehended in Deerfield Beach. The shooter was tried twice, and both times convicted and sentenced to death. After the U.S. Supreme Court remanded the second sentencing, he was sentenced to death for a third time in 1991, thirteen years after the murder. A subsequent appeal was denied by the Florida Supreme Court in 2001, and his death sentence was upheld. The suspect was put to death by lethal injection on September 28, 2011.
The passenger was sentenced to 10 years for his involvement in the murder. Three years after his release from prison, he was convicted of unrelated charges and returned to prison.
Officer Pena had served with the Coral Gables Police Department for 12 years. He is survived by his wife, son, three daughters, parents, and two siblings.