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9/11
New Hero Search David H. Strzalkowski - Nov. 28, 1988 (229)

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Metro-Dade FL Police Dept. Patch
Resided: (Miami-Dade County)
FL, USA
Born: Jul. 31, 1954  
Fallen: Nov. 28, 1988
Race/Sex: Caucasian Male / 34 yrs. of age
Agency
Dept: Metro-Dade Police Dept.
9105 NW 25 St.  
Doral, FL   33172   USA
County: Dade
Dept. Type: County/Police
Hero's Rank: Patrolman
Sworn Date: 9/1982
FBI Class: Homicide - Gun
Weapon Class: Police
Agency URL: Click Here
Badge: 3663
On The Job: 6 years
Bio: David H. Strzalkowski was born on July 31, 1954, in Buffalo, New York, to Daniel L. and Winifred Pease Strzalkowski. David was the oldest of four children. He attended St. Matthew's elementary school as a child and was active in the boy scouts. He attended Seneca H.S. in Buffalo but graduated from Maryvalle H.S. in 1973. He also took courses for a year in electrical technology at Erie Community College in Buffalo.

From childhood David expressed the desire to become a police officer. Three of his uncles were in law enforcement and a close friend, Gary Greco, became a Cheektowaga officer in 1975. David spent 10 years after high school trying to get into police work applying in the Buffalo area and in several cities in Texas, Florida, and Pennsylvania. However, he was disadvantaged in that he was only 5'3" and wore glasses.

During this ten year period he worked at AMCO, as an assistant manager at a Sheraton Hotel, and at an ITT factory job. He also worked as a volunteer firefighter for Cheektowaga's (a suburb of Buffalo) U-Crest Fire Department from 1975-1982. He served at one point as an assistant Chief and became editor of the fire dept.'s newspaper. His devotion to his work as a firefighter was seen in that he left his sister's wedding in his tuxedo to answer a fire alarm. He later drove an ambulance and worked as an emergency medical technician while he took paramedic courses and eventually taught first aid.

During his work as a volunteer fireman, David met and married Debora J. Benedick of Buffalo. Debora was a 17-year-old high school senior when she met David, 23, through her brother who served as a volunteer firefighter in Cheektowaga. The couple married on Aug. 7, 1982.

Strzalkowski's 10 year quest to become a police officer ended in 1982 when he got a call from Metro-Dade in response to his application. He entered the Dade Police Academy in Sept. of 1982 and graduated 2nd in his recruit class.

During his six years with Metro-Dade, Strzalkowski was assigned to patrol out of the Northeast Station at 156th and Biscayne Blvd. He had hoped to gain enough police experience in Miami to eventually move back to Buffalo and become an officer there but his applications to Buffalo had been rejected.

At the time of his death he lived in Hollywood, FL, with his wife, Debora. The couple had a son, Eric, 28 months old, and Debora was pregnant. On July 8, 1989, Debora gave birth to a second son, Sean David, who never knew his father.

Strzalkowski's police superiors described him as efficient and dedicated to his job. He was among the district's leaders in the number of calls handled, traffic citations issued, field interviews and arrests. He always arrived early for his midnight shift to read reports. During six years on the job, he accumulated 18 commendations and received above-satisfactory ratings in all of his evaluations. Being a concerned father, one of his special targets were speeders in school zones. Also, because of his personality, he was particularly good at defusing domestic disputes.

Neighbors and fellow officers described Strzalkowski, nicknamed "Ski," as the opposite of a hard-nosed guy. The most common descriptor was "nice guy" as evidence by stories of his going out of his way to help someone in need. For example, while driving home from work one day he stopped to change a tire for an older man who had recently undergone heart bypass surgery. And in 1987 the Strzalkowski family threw a Christmas party for the block where they lived.

Debora was watching ABC's Sunday Night at the Movies on the evening of Nov. 27, 1988, while her husband slept preparing to go to work at midnight. The movie was about the 1986 FBI Shootout which took the lives of two agents. As the movie ended, Debora thought it must have been terrible for the families of the two officers to learn of their murders. Three hours after the end of the movie, her husband was shot and killed and she learned firsthand how such a tragedy impacts a family.

Debora did worry about her husband as he had received minor injuries resulting from efforts to subdue suspects. And the prior year Strzalkowski had been one of several officers fired at by armed robbers fleeing a bank robbery on Miami Gardens Drive. David told Debora not to worry (but didn't tell he had been shot at) until she saw the "green-and-white parked outside." Around 4:00AM on Nov. 28, 1988, a priest and several Metro-Dade police officers knocked on her door. "I knew," she said. "It's just like you see in the movies."

Debbie had a doctor's appointment scheduled for that morning as she had told David several weeks earlier that she believed she was pregnant again. David and Debora had been excited about the prospects of a second child.

The murder of David Strzalkowski occurred on the 35th wedding anniversary of his parents and thus the news that reached Buffalo on that Nov. 28 ruined the occasion as well as future anniversaries. Now his parents spend part of each wedding anniversary laying flowers on their son's grave. His father keeps a blue candle burning all the time in memory of his slain son..

Survived by:
Debra Strzalkowski - Wife

parents, Daniel L. and Winifred Pease Strzalkowski of Cheektowaga; and son, Eric, 2, of Hollywood; three sisters, Charlotte Sumner and Helen Strzalkowski of Boca Raton, and Karen Strzalkowski of Cheektowaga; five aunts Ann Adamczyk and Loraine Cottle of Cheektowaga, Irene Paradowski of Depew, NY, Evelyn Ruhland of W. Seneca, NY, and Barbara Fennisen of Buffalo; an uncle, James Pease of Buffalo; two nieces, Jennifer M. and Wendy Lewandowski of Cheektowaga; and a grandmother, Helen Strzalkowski of Cheektowaga.

Fatal Incident Summary
Offender: Charlie Street
  
Location: FL   USA   Mon. Nov. 28, 1988
Summary: Metro-Dade Officers Richard Allen Boles, 41, a 4-year veteran, and David H. Strzalkowski, 34, a 6-year veteran, were shot and killed on Nov. 28, 1988, in a street encounter with ex-convict Charlie Street. Street was sentenced to death for the two murders.

Charles Street had been released from prison on Nov. 18 after serving 8 years of a 15 year sentence for attempted murder and was living in Boynton Beach, FL. On Sunday, Nov. 27, 1988, ten days after his release from prison, Street had been in Miami's Liberty City trying to locate an "old flame" he had not seen in nine years. He failed to locate her and was returning to Boynton Beach on foot when he was first encountered at 6:00PM by the Florida Highway Patrol. Witnesses had seen Street clutching a guard-rail on Interstate 95, and fearing he would jump, called FHP.

Street told the troopers that he had been in Miami visiting a friend, had run out of money and was returning to his home in Boynton Beach. The troopers told Street that he could not walk on I-95 and asked him to turn out his pockets to make sure he had no drugs or weapons. The "chat" with Street ended when "a motorist, slowing down to gawk, caused a three-car pileup that left three people injured and a car perched on the guardrail." The troopers left Street to handle the accident. Street walked off I-95 at the 69th St. ramp.

"Six hours and nine miles later" another confrontation between Street and the police occurred. He was still on foot and still looking for a ride to Boynton Beach. At midnight, Street called 911 from "Sunny's," a North Dade car wash at 19250 N.W. Biscayne Blvd. In a "calm, relaxed voice," he told the operator he wanted to go to the hospital, and to send police because "people were after him." He complained about a variety of ailments. He said someone was trying to poison him.

However, the three paramedics who responded to the 911 call soon figured out that nothing was wrong with Street and that his call was just a ruse to get a ride to Boynton. The paramedics called police when Street complained, "Are you going to leave me here to be murdered?"

Five officers arrived---including Boles and Strzalkowski. Boles told Street he could walk to Boynton, go by ambulance to Jackson Memorial Hospital or accept a ride from the cops to the county line. Eric Rossman, one of the five officers from the midnight shift of the Northeast District Station, later testified at the trial that Street claimed that unknown males had been following him and trying to kill him and that he appeared to be extremely agitated and even to be paranoid of the two police officers. Street also told officer Rossman that he saw people armed with guns on top of the car wash and that they were going to shoot him. Officers Boles and Rossman left the gas station when Street got into Medi-Car ambulance to Jackson Memorial Hospital.

However, a few minutes later Street told paramedics he wanted to go north to Dania instead of south to Jackson Hospital. The private ambulance refused to take him to Dania and thus let him out of the ambulance at 1:53AM. Street then walked northbound on West Dixie Highway alongside the Lone Pine Trailer Park at 20000 W. Dixie Highway.

But Street again started "making trouble". He threw a piece of automobile tailpipe and some stones at cars travelling on West Dixie Highway. About 2:00AM residents of the mobile homes in the trailer park heard Street crying for help. One resident said, "I thought at first there was a dog that was hit. He sounded terrible, like a mad dog." Another said that Street was shouting and "walking fast and swinging his arms, like he was marching." A resident called the police.

Boles was dispatched to the scene and spotted Street throwing things at vehicles. He said over his radio, "He's gonna get hit. He's fleeing from us." As Officer Boles got out of his car Officer Strzalkowski arrived and both parked their cars just south of Ives Dairy Road on Biscayne Blvd. Both officers confronted Street again, just an hour after their initial confrontation. It was 2:20AM.

A retired businessman from western Quebec who lived at the trailer park (half of the 243 trailers were occupied by retired French Canadians) witnessed the confrontation between Street and the two officers in the two patrol cars from a distance of 15 feet. The Miami Herald reported the witness's account: The first officer to arrive, Boles, (asked)..."What's wrong?" (but) the tall, hefty man,...shoved him against the car. The second officer, Strzalkowski, arrived and walked toward them. He also grappled with Street. "They tried to take him, but they were not strong enough to keep him in their arms. He was stronger and bigger than they were," the witness said. (Miami Herald, 11291988) Street somehow grabbed Boles's gun and fired six shots at the two officers, hitting each three times. He then dropped the gun that had run out of bullets and picked up Strzalkowski's gun. Boles, who was seriously wounded by the three shots attempted to crawl toward his patrol car but Street ran up and shot him a fourth time. The witness then saw the gunman take that police car, make a U-turn across the Biscayne Boulevard median strip and drive north. "No sound. They fell down and that's it." the witness said. "They just moved their heads a little." (Miami Herald, 11291988) Street was not carrying a gun when confronted by the two officers but attacked the officers with a piece of pipe. When the two officers tried to subdue Street without deadly force (i.e., without drawing their guns) he was able to grab Boles' revolver. It appears that Street fired 3 shots at Strzalkowski, the remaining 3 shots at Boles, then snatched the dying Strzalkowski's gun and shot Boles a fourth time.

Street was carrying one of the police revolvers when he was captured later that morning. The other police revolver was dropped at the murder scene. Both Boles and Strzalkowski were wearing bullet-proof vests but had been shot in the head.

The two fallen officers were airlifted by helicopter to Jackson Memorial Hospital. Doctors reported that each man had been shot at least three times. Attempts were made to resuscitate Boles but he was pronounced dead at 3:12AM. He had been shot multiple times in the torso and head.

Strzalkowski died 9 hours later (at 11:45AM) despite massive blood transfusions and five hours of surgery. One bullet had been fired point-blank beside his right ear. Two other bullet wounds in the back resulted from the killer poking one of the police revolvers down the back of Strzalkowski's bulletproof vest and firing twice.

Strzalkowski's wife, Debora, 27, was at the hospital during his final hours as was his sister Karen. Debora was a surgical nurse at Hollywood Memorial Hospital and informed the medical staff that she wanted to donate his organs so that another person could live. Charlie Street was arrested only 30 minutes after the killings in a strange series of events. He had fled the scene of the killings in Boles' police car heading north toward Broward County. He was next seen at 2:30AM in Broward near I-95 between Sheridan Street and Sterling Road. There he pointed a shotgun, apparently found in the police car, at Crystal Green, 21, of Hollywood. Green said she had run out of cigarettes and had gone to get some. She took her mother's 1986 Chevrolet. As she was about to drive home, a man pounded on the car window. She saw him pointing a shotgun at her. "Get out," he said, and Green obeyed. He grabbed the front of her shirt, popping the buttons. "I just killed your cousin!" the man shouted. Green did not understand. He shoved her aside and drove the car away. "I was in shock," Green said, "All I saw was him standing there with this big gun. I couldn't do anything....I was just hoping he wouldn't kill me." (Miami Herald, 11291988) At about 2:45AM, Broward County deputy Gregory Mentzer, 23, was on the alert for a murder suspect in a stolen Metro-Dade police car when he saw a man running across Sterling Road at Southwest 11th ave. "He was trying to hide himself," Mentzer said. "He was hugging a tree, trying to get himself covered by the foliage. I stopped and he saw me." Mentzer walked toward him. The man stepped away from the tree and tossed a revolver onto the road. He put his hands in the air and dropped to his knees. "Don't kill me!" he yelled, "Don't kill me!" Mentzer had his own gun aimed at the man. "I still didn't know what this guy was doing," he said. "We had been looking for someone in a Metro-Dade vehicle." Mentzer thought he had arrested a prowler. The man fell flat on his back, "I killed two cops," he said. "Lord, don't kill me for it." (Miami Herald, 11291988) Street was arrested by Mentzer and taken first to the Broward County jail. Deputy Mentzer later received the Combat Cross Medal, the second highest medal given by the Broward Sheriff's Office, for his arrest of Charlie Street. The award is given to BSO officers who "perform exceptional acts of valor while in extreme danger while exposed to an adversary."

Street later told Metro-Dade officers that he intended to kill Mentzer but that the "deputy fooled him by parking his car and walking into the confrontation with his gun already drawn." Sgt. Brett Sagenkhan, "who set up the dragnet that snatched Street," and Dep. Ken Dugger, "who helped take Street into custody," received Exceptional Service Medals, the third highest award given by BSO.

When being fingerprinted and photographed at the Broward jail, Street began repeatedly chanting, "Shaku Zulu, Shaku Zulu" (the name of an African warrior-king whose 19th-Century reign was featured in a 10-hour television mini-series in 1987). Street also threatened to overpower corrections officers as he had overpowered the two dead police officers.

At 11:00AM, Street was taken to a Broward County Court for a bond hearing. He refused a public defender and around 2:00PM gave a confession to Metro-Dade detectives. By 7:30PM, Street was taken to the Dade County Jail where he was charged with two counts of first-degree murder. "When officers snapped the perfunctory Polaroid mug shots, he covered his head and yelled, 'Don't kill me!'"

As a result of the Boles-Strzalkowski murders, Metro-Dade and Miami police officials formed a "special committee of training and field personnel to study the problem of restraining criminal suspects, especially those in a drug-induced psychosis that gives them 'superhuman' strength." The committee was to consider the use of nets, stun guns, and other "unorthodox gear" to restrain violent suspects.

The killing of Boles and Strzalkowski with a gun taken from one of the officers was not unusual when all the murders of police officers are considered. The FBI estimates that as many as one-fourth of officers who are shot and killed with their own guns. Boles and Strzalkowski became the 11th and 12th Dade officers (of the 65 shot) killed in the line of duty to be shot with their own guns (or a partner's gun). The others were Homestead Town Marshal Charles Bryant (1923), Constable Luther Hardison (1951), Miami Officer Jerrell Ferguson (1962), Metro-Dade Officer Carlos Stuteville (1964), Coral Gables Officer Walter Stathers (1967), Metro-Dade Officer Wm. Cook (1979), Metro-Dade Officer Robert Zore (1983), Opa-locka Officer Ephriam Brown (1986), Hialeah Officer Emilio Miyares (1986), and Miami Springs Officer Thomas Stafford (1991).

Disposition: After a separate penalty phase of the trial, the jury voted 12-0 on Aug. 9, 1990, that Charlie Street should be sentenced to death in the electric chair. On Sept. 18, Judge Sepe accepted the recommendation of the jury and sentenced Street to death. Street was also sentenced to five consecutive life terms for a variety of other crimes linked to the officers' murders.

Charlie Street and another Death Row multiple killer were stabbed to death in the FL State Prison exercise yard on April 19, 1995. The suspects were two other Death Row killers from Dade County, Mario Lara, 39, and Rigoberto Sanchez-Velasco, 31.

Source: Book       Excerpted in part or in whole from Dr. Wilbanks book-

FORGOTTEN HEROES: POLICE OFFICERS KILLED IN DADE COUNTY, FL, 1895-1995

by William Wilbanks

Louisville: Turner Publications

1996

Related: Richard Allen Boles
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