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New Hero Search Steven Ernest Bauer
- Jan. 03, 1992 -

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North Miami Police Dept. Patch
Resided: North Miami (Miami-Dade County)
Born: Jul. 15, 1952  
Fallen: Jan. 03, 1992
Race/Sex: Caucasian Male / 39 yrs. of age
Dept: North Miami Police Dept
North Miami, FL   USA
County: Dade
Dept. Type: Municipal/Police
Hero's Rank: Sergeant
Sworn Date: 1/1979
FBI Class: Homicide - Gun
Weapon Class: Firearm
Badge: 88
On The Job: 13 years
Bio: Steven Ernest Bauer was born on July 15, 1952, in Baltimore, MD. He was the fourth of eight children born to Dr. Robert E. and Madelaine Bauer. The Bauer family moved to Miami Beach in 1957 when Steven was 5 years old.

Steven attended North Beach Elementary School on Miami Beach, the Miami Military Academy for Jr. H.S., and the Bolles Academy in Jacksonville, FL, for H.S., graduating on June 19, 1971. At Bolles Academy he lettered in football and baseball. His love of sports continued in later life as he continued to play flag football and softball in various leagues throughout Dade and Broward Counties.

After graduation from H.S., Steven enlisted in the U.S. Army and was stationed in Germany for most of his two-year tour of duty (Oct. 16, 1972 to Oct. 9, 1974). After discharge from the Army, Steven worked for the Publix Supermarket on Dade Blvd. for four years until he began his law enforcement career in 1979. Steven became interested in police work around 1975 after his brother, Michael, became a Miami Beach police officer. He became the second of three brothers to become a police officer (Robert Bauer, Jr., joined the Miami Beach Dept. after Steven joined the N. Miami Dept.)

Steven Bauer joined the N. Miami Police Department in Jan. of 1979. He was a patrol officer from 1979-1983, served in marine patrol from 1983-1986, worked again in patrol from 1986-1988 and became a Detective in 1988. During his career he also served as a Field Training Officer, training new police officers as they graduated from the Police Academy.

Bauer was a "highly decorated" officer as his letters of commendation (from members of the public and law enforcement agencies) formed a "stack nearly an inch thick." "Twice, he was commended for subduing armed or violent suspects without firing his weapon." In 1989 Steven and his brother Michael, a Miami Beach police officer, were "lauded for working together to solve a slew of cases involving prostitutes who drugged and robbed their victims." Steven Bauer was the N. Miami Police Department's Officer of the Year in 1989.

Officer Bauer also received commendation from an unlikely source---those he arrested. Often, after arresting criminals, Bauer would check on them and even offer them assistance. Some wrote letters and notes to him complimenting and thanking him. They considered him "fair and honest."

On Thursday, Jan. 2, Sgt. Bauer worked his usual 3:30PM-11:30PM shift and arose early on Jan. 3 to be at work at the Kislak Bank by 7:00. On that Thursday he had made plans to take his children to the circus on Saturday night. Bauer was very popular on the force and was known as a "The Joker" because of his practical jokes on co-workers. One officer said that, "you could always tell when he had pulled a joke on someone. He'd turn bright, beet red."

The respect for Sgt. Bauer was reflected in the turnout for his funeral held on Monday, Jan. 6, at the Fulford United Methodist Church in N. Miami where he and his family were members. Over a thousand uniformed officers from all over the state attended the service as did the Dade State Attorney and some of her assistants, judges, former co-workers, etc. Most were forced to stand outside the small church and listen to the service over the loudspeaker system as there was no room for all of them inside.

Survived by:
Caroline Bauer - Wife

and three children, Kelly, 16, Katie, 5, and Kyle, 3; his father, Dr. Robert E. Bauer, Sr.; four brothers, Robert E. Bauer, Jr., Michael R. Bauer, Scott B. Bauer, and Todd T. Bauer; and three sisters, Patti Bauer Shomer, Fawn Bauer Lantis, and Melissa Bauer Rowan Outland.

Fatal Incident Summary
Location: FL   USA   Fri. Jan. 03, 1992
Summary: Sgt. Steven E. Bauer, 39, a 13-year veteran of the N. Miami Police Department was shot and killed as he escorted two bank tellers to their drive-in stations while in uniform providing security on an off-duty job on Jan. 3, 1992. Bauer became the second member of the 112-person N. Miami department to be killed in the line of duty (Officer Carl Mertes was killed in 1980).

Bauer also became the second Dade officer to be killed in a robbery while providing security to a private business. Coral Gables officer Alfred Terrinoni was shot and killed as he approached a car after picking up a bank deposit from a Dadeland restaurant in 1980.

Sgt. Bauer had worked for 9 years as an off-duty security guard for the Kislak National Bank (formerly the People's Liberty National Bank) of N. Miami located at 13490 N.W. Seventh Ave. (1 block south and west of the I-95 exit at N.W. 135th St.). The drive-in windows were scheduled to open at 8:00AM on that Friday, Jan. 3, 1992. Bauer, as usual, at 7:50AM escorted the two drive-in tellers, LaSonya Hadley and Michelle Chin-Watson, to their station since each carried a cash tray for use at their station. The three exited the back door of the bank for the short walk to the drive-in windows. The two women exited first, followed by Bauer.

The three were confronted by three Latin males who were dressed in blue jeans, flannel shirts and bandannas. Each was armed with a pistol. The robbers were evidently aware of the route taken each day by the tellers and were hiding to "ambush" the tellers and the security guard whom they likely knew was a uniformed police officer.

As the robbers jumped out of the Chevrolet Caprice, one yelled in Spanish, "Freeze, don't move!" Bauer attempted to draw his weapon, but only got it out of the holster before being shot in the hip and falling forward. The second shot entered his neck and "went down to his chest, inflicting massive and fatal damage" to his heart. Bauer was not wearing a bullet-proof vest but, even if he had been, he likely would have been killed as the shots would not have hit the vest.

Neither of the two women tellers were shot but the three robbers did take their cash drawers containing a total of $17,000. "The victims had no time either to comply or resist" as the robbers gave Bauer no warning. It appears that the uniformed officer "was just gunned down and immediately executed at the scene." Police believe that the robbers "knew they had to kill a cop to get the money and they did it."

Bauer was able to draw his 9mm semiautomatic pistol (found at his side) but was unable to return fire before falling to the driveway of one of four drive-in teller stations at the rear of the bank. After gunning down Bauer, the robbers ran up and grabbed the money trays next to the fallen officer and fled the scene in their waiting vehicle.

The two tellers "cradled the fallen officer in their arms" and heard his last words which were expressions of concern for them. "Are you all right? Are you all right?" A man selling newspapers at the corner ran to the fallen officer and saw him "lying on his side in a pool of blood." The man asked the women if he could help and noticed that the officer's eyes were "getting dimmer and dimmer." He then walked away as he later said, "I didn't want to see him die."

Sgt. Steven Bauer died in a pool of blood in the bank driveway expressing concern for the people he was paid to protect. He missed the circus he had planned to take his children to the next day.

The escape plan of the three robbers did not go as planned as eyewitnesses saw what was the likely getaway car speed off in a westward direction without the robbers. Abandoned, the three then fled on foot to the west. A sanitation worker who heard the shots, saw the getaway car fleeing, and then "saw a person down" and called the police from his truck.

Officers from N. Miami, Metro-Dade, Miami, N. Miami Beach, the FL Dept. of Law Enforcement (FDLE) and the FBI (which has jurisdiction in bank robberies) sent officers and agents. The search team cordoned off the neighborhood for a square mile. "Metro sent up a helicopter. Miami brought in dogs." Police quickly located and impounded two stolen autos, probably "switch cars" for the planned getaway, but did not immediately locate the actual getaway car. Eventually police did locate the getaway car but it was a late model Buick Regal rather than the blue Cadillac or Monte Carlo described by witnesses at the scene.

Within 24 hours the police had descriptions and composites of the five Latin males being sought. The composites were published in the Miami Herald on Jan. 5 and shown on all local TV stations the same day. A 70-member inter-agency task force was established as police sought tips from the public as to the identity of the robbers.

A reward for information as to the identity of the killers grew to $100,000 in two weeks. At the end of two weeks, the task force had received and checked out 950 tips from the public and logged more than 10,000 hours in investigative time.

The big break in the case came two weeks after the murder (Jan. 18) when one of the killers, Fernando Augustine Fernandez, 19, consulted a Santeria priest to ward off "evil spirits" (i.e., the police) and confessed to the robbery and murder. The priest, who wanted the $100,000 reward, called police and Fernandez was arrested in West Dade. His statement to police led to the arrest of four other men, Ricardo Gonzalez, 21, Leonardo Franqui, 21, Pablo San Martin, 24, and Pablo A. Abreau, 37.

On Saturday, Jan. 19, N. Miami Police Chief Kenneth Each announced over the loudspeaker at the Orange Bowl stadium at the halftime of the "Pig Bowl" (matching NYC officers with officers from Dade County in a charity football game) that five men had been arrested for the murder of Officer Bauer. A tremendous roar erupted from those in attendance at the game in the Orange Bowl and officers on the field "held their helmets high and shook their fists victoriously" toward section 22 in the upper deck where the Bauer family and friends were sitting.

The Bauer family had been notified of the arrests before the game and the Orange Bowl management had opened that closed section to the Bauer family as Steven Bauer and his family had sat in section 22 for years for Miami Dolphin games. Bauer's widow, Caroline, wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with her husband's badge number ("88"), embraced the two Kislak tellers and family members sitting with her.

Disposition: On Oct. 11, 1994, Judge Rodolfo Sorondo, Jr., sentenced all four of those convicted at trial to death. He agreed with the juries that Fernando Fernandez, Ricardo Gonzalez, and Leonardo Franqui deserved the death penalty but disagreed with the jury recommendation of life for Pablo San Martin. The judge pointed out that San Martin, like Franqui, had already been given a death sentence for the murder of the Hialeah security guard in an earlier robbery and added that all four men were equally deserving of death. Judge Sorondo also said that the "excuses" given by the four defendants at the sentencing hearing "bordered on the insulting" and that "the killing of any human being is terrible, but people who kill those whose job is to protect us are more dangerous."

The four joined 10 others on FL's death row who had killed Dade law enforcement officers.

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


by William Wilbanks

Louisville: Turner Publications


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