South Beach man fights off eviction with gunfire, killing worker who came to change his lock.

The scene is a common one in South Florida. Police and property personnel stand at a door to serve an eviction notice.
Even with the tension and armed officers, no one expects gunfire.

At an oceanfront Miami Beach condo Monday, with tourists splashing and dining a block away, a routine eviction process turned deadly.

Shot to death: an admired, hard-working day laborer.

Injured: a Miami-Dade police officer serving the notice and a furniture mover who came to assist.

Also injured, the unidentified suspect, who was shot by police and was in Jackson Memorial Hospital late Monday.

The laborer, Alberto Gomez, 60, who had taken the part-time job just for the day, was dead at the scene at the Royal Atlantic Condominium, an 11-story building at 465 Ocean Dr.

Tenants and an attorney involved in the eviction said Gomez and the officers had gone to Apartment 211, a 665-square-foot unit that had been at the center of a legal battle between Joseph Richer, 44, and his father, Charles Richer, 76, of Aventura.

The son had been living in the unit for years without paying.

Marshall said Charles Richer warned his son authorities would be coming this week to evict him.

The unit was sold at public auction and an eviction notice was served on Oct. 26, records show.

On Monday morning, an eviction team — Gomez, a potential buyer, a Miami-Dade officer and a sergeant and movers — arrived sometime after 10 a.m.

Police knocked and announced their intention, said Miami-Dade police spokeswoman Lt. Rosanna Cordero-Stutz.

There was no reply. Gomez took out tools and began working on the lock.

The door burst open and the man inside started firing. The shooter emptied his .357 revolver, said John Rivera, president of the Police Benevolent Association, who had been briefed on the shooting.

The bullets killed Gomez. An officer returned fire, striking the shooter. The officer had minor eye injuries and was taken to the hospital as a precaution.

One of the movers scrambled from the scene, jumping down the front of the building to get away.

Witnesses reported seeing the man fall into bushes flanking the condo.

Charles and Joseph Richer bought the one-bedroom unit in 2001 for $135,000, but the father had claimed in court that his son had not made payments since 2003.

Built in 1969, the building benefitted from its prime location on Ocean Drive during the real estate boom, with studio units bringing in $300,000 or more in 2005.

Five years later, the property value had fallen substantially, and some of those same studio units were valued at just over $120,000.

Five of the units in the 238-unit building are being foreclosed by the bank, according to RealtyTrac, and several others have been targeted for foreclosure by the condo association.

The elder Richer went to court and eventually bought out his son’s portion and began the process of evicting him to sell the property.

The son had no visible means of support and wasn’t paying the condo association fee, he wasn’t paying the mortgage, and he wasn’t paying the taxes. And this had been going on for years.”

The shooting caused a ruckus in the popular Fifth Street area of South Beach during a tourists-filled week.

Officers from Miami Beach and Miami-Dade converged on the scene, roping off a busy stretch of Ocean Drive for hours on Monday.

People milled about at yellow police tape, stopping to take pictures and ask what had happened.

Basia Simpson, 21, of Chicago, was sitting at a a nearby deli when she suddenly heard about eight to nine shots, saw one person jump to safety from a low floor of the building.

She saw an officer running toward the building with a high-powered weapon.

In the building, Emily Mack, who lives on the floor of the shooting, said she heard about five shots.

“I’ve never heard anything like that before,” said Mack, 46. “We jumped up.”

She saw the man’s body in the hallway.

James Butt, 81, lives on the floor above and heard several bumps but wasn’t sure what the noise was. He got a call and went downstairs. Officers in the hall, with guns out, quickly ushered him back upstairs.

Butt said he had seen a eviction notice on the apartment door about a week earlier.

He said he had seen the man on the pool deck on Sunday night and the two had had a brief conversation.

As police investigated Monday, distraught friends rushed to the waterfront condo building, mourning Gomez.

He came from Colombia about 40 years ago and had spent much of the time working in construction — until Monday when he had gone to the building as part of a part time job.

“He was working, working seven days a week,” said friend Marcos Gonzalez, who owned the construction company where Gomez had previously worked. “He’d make a little money and send it home to Colombia. Very honest guy.”

Gomez could not return to Colombia to visit family because of immigration problems, said Felix Valera, a friend.

“It’s been 40 years since he’d seen his family. He couldn’t go because he lacked papers,” Valera said.

Gomez lived alone and spent much of his time at Valera’s house, often coming over to play dominoes.

“For somebody to do this, they’d have to be some kind of demon,” said Nancy Cortes, a friend of Gomez’s who rushed to the building when she heard the news.