Miami-Dade cops to run Miami Marathon in honor of friend killed in line of duty
months after the death of Miami-Dade Police Det. Cesar “Echy” Echaverry, the two men nearest him during the exchange of gunfire can’t shake the memory of seeing him take a bullet and fall to the ground.
“At least for me, it’s been the toughest year of my life. Not a day goes by when I don’t think of him,” said Justin Heller, who with Joe Rodriguez was at Echaverry’s side during the shootout that also ended the life of the suspected armed robber they were chasing.
Like Echaverry, Heller and Rodriguez are members of the county’s Robbery Intervention Detail, a specialized unit that seeks out some of the most dangerous criminals in South Florida. And Tuesday, when they gathered at Miami-Dade’s police training site in Doral along with RID partners John Childress and Sean McVay, they vowed to always honor Echaverry’s memory.
The four donned shorts and running shoes and set
off on a quarter-mile track prepping for Sunday’s downtown Miami Marathon, which they plan to run for the first time in honor of Echaverry, a runner, avid cyclist and dirtbike enthusiast.
The morning Echaverry was shot, he sent the group a video of him breaking in a new pair of Hoka running shoes, a relatively popular brand that can cost hunFive
dreds of dollars.
“He’s a hero,” said Rodriguez.
“We want to keep his story going,” Heller said. “He made the ultimate sacrifice.”
Echaverry, who at 29 was a five-year veteran and had plans to be married, is the only member of the highly-acclaimed task force to die in the line of duty. The unit has been around for nearly three decades.
It was early in the evening on Aug. 16 when Echaverry and his partners were alerted to a white Hyundai tha was in Miami Springs and was suspected of being involved in an armed robbery in Dania Beach the night before. They followed the car to an intersection just outside Liberty City and blocked it in.
For as long as 30 minutes the officers implored Jeremy Willie Horton, 32, to get out of the vehicle. Instead, Horton rammed several police cars before leading them on a chase into Liberty City. After smashing into a light pole, Horton ditched the vehicle and fled on foot. Echaverry, Heller, Rodriguez and others were chasing him. Shots were fired. Echaverry was struck and on life support for two days before succumbing to his injury. Horton was killed on the spot.
“What happened was very traumatic,” said Heller. “You sign up for this job hoping that will never happen.”