Officer Charles B. Stafford was the first and only Miami Springs Police Officer killed in the line of duty. On June 11, 1991, Officer Stafford observed a white Cadillac suspected of being stolen near LeJeune Road and NW 36th Street. Stafford pursued the driver and pulled him over near NW 27th Avenue and the State Road 112 Expressway.
Officer Stafford was in the process of handcuffing the driver (identified as Merrit Alonzo Sims) when Sims took the Police Radio and struck Sims in the head. Sims then took Stafford’s Glock service pistol and shot Stafford twice.
After shooting Stafford, Sims drove away and got rid of the gun. Then, Sims worked with a friend to cut off his handcuffs.
Sims fled Florida and headed to California, where he had an ex-girlfriend and two kids. Police were able to track him down and arrest him in California. Sims confessed to the killing, but claimed self defense before being extradited from California to Florida.
On July 17, 1991, Merrit Sims was indicted with the following charges:
- First Degree Murder of a Law Enforcement Officer
- Armed Robbery
- Unlawful Possession of a Firearm by a convicted felon
On July 18, 1991, Sims plead not guilty to the indictment.
On January 12, 1994, the jury found Sims Guilty of all three charges. During the sentencing phase, the jury voted 8-4 in favor of the death penalty for the murder of Miami Springs Police Officer Charles Stafford.
Sims filed for an appeal with the Florida Supreme Court on April 27, 1994. The appeal process went back and forth for several years. In 2007, the Florida Supreme Court ordered a new trial for Sims. However, in June of 2011, twenty years after the murder of Miami Springs Police Officer, Charles Stafford, Merrit Sims struck a plea deal. The plea deal saved the Stafford family from the trauma of a new trial. It also allowed Sims to escape the death penalty. Under the agreement, Sims admitted his guilt to second degree murder of a law enforcement officer. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison effective June 2011. Sims did not receive credit for the two decades he had spent in jail.
Sims is scheduled to be released in the year 2036 at the age of 70.
Stafford Park, located at 501 East Drive, was renamed in honor of the fallen officer.
POLICE STATION MEMORIAL
A plaque honoring Officer Stafford is located at the police department’s main entrance. It reads: “In memory of Officer Charles B. Stafford who made the ultimate sacrifice while serving his community in the line of duty”.
This is a reminder that there’s no such thing as a routine traffic stop. The men and women of the Miami Springs Police Department put their lives in harms way to help protect our community from dangerous criminals every single day.