Key Biscayne police arrested a car theft suspect Thursday after an intense early morning search that led to an island-wide school lockdown and street closures, witnesses said.
Officers charged Justin Jimenez-Diaz, 18, with third-degree grand theft, fleeing a police officer, and trespassing on a construction site, according to court records.
City of Miami Police said a victim reported a stolen Alfa-Romeo around 4:15 a.m. Later, the victim was able to electronically “ping” the car to Key Biscayne, when island officers were alerted.
Key Biscayne Police Chief Frank Sousa said after the notification from the City of Miami, a search began in earnest, with schools ordered locked down and a perimeter set up in the vicinity of Woodcrest Lane and Heather Dr., between Fernwood Rd. and Hampton Lane.
Around 5 a.m, Jimenez and two others jumped out of the car on Harbor Drive near Crossbridge Church, and a pursuit followed, but Sousa said officers had to determine which of the individuals was driving the car. One of the others then took a bicycle as he continued to flee.
A 7 a.m. email alert from the Village advised residents to avoid the area.
Police located Jimenez at a nearby residential construction site around 8:30 a.m. A construction worker told police that Jimenez was inside a portable restroom, according to arrest records. The officer then entered the restroom and found the defendant trying to conceal himself.
Sousa said Jimenez admitted to being the driver of the vehicle, and was taken to the Turner Guilford Knight jail for processing. Corrections Department records indicated bond was set at $5,000.
A picture circulating on social media showed a male wearing a red jacket being handcuffed by Key Biscayne officers.
Key Biscayne Presbyterian School Director Anne Rothe said a man was taken into custody by officers and brought to the school’s parking lot, which police used as a staging area for the search.
“Luckily it happened before everybody got here, she said. “The whole situation was a great example of how important our School Resource team is.”
EDITORS NOTE — this story has been updated to correct defendant’s age, full name, and location of arrest.
Tony Winton is the editor-in-chief of the Key Biscayne Independent and president of Miami Fourth Estate, Inc. He worked previously at The Associated Press for three decades winning multiple Edward R. Murrow awards. He was president of the News Media Guild, a journalism union, for 10 years. Born in Chicago, he is a graduate of Columbia University. His interests are photography and technology, sailing, cooking, and science fiction.