MIAMI – When two gunmen tried to rob a New York City detective vacationing in Miami Beach last weekend, he fought back hard.
The veteran of 27 years on the force opened fire, wounding both attackers who accosted him and also shot him in the courtyard of a hotel on Collins Avenue.
Those details of the events during Saturday’s attempted hold-up of Det. Harold Thomas, 48, were revealed for the first time Thursday as police announced the suspects’ arrest — and how Thomas’ quick actions helped solve the case.
Thomas’ family flew down from New York and was present at the news conference while Thomas remained at Jackson Memorial Hospital recovering from a gunshot wounds to the thigh that damaged his femoral artery.
“Twenty-seven years on the force and you come out on vacation and something tragic like this happens,” said one of Thomas’ two sons, Brandon, 23.
Arrested were Francisco Henriquez, 35, who is charged with attempted felony murder and is being held in a Miami-Dade County Jail, and Mustafa Lee, 28, who is also charged with attempted felony murder and is being held in a Broward County Jail medical ward.
One of the wounded gunmen sought medical care in Broward County hours after the attack, raising suspicions that led to the duo’s arrest.
Police said Thomas had been in town vacationing with two other NYPD detectives, one of whom had a wife celebrating a birthday. The group spent Friday evening at Mansions. Early Saturday, Thomas escorted the group to another hotel blocks from where he was staying at the 1233 Lofts.
According to the report, as he returned to his boutique hotel and walked through a courtyard to his room, the men followed him and tried to rob him.
Thomas ran a few feet and hid behind a nearby tree and drew his firearm, exchanging shots with the men before they fled wounded and empty handed, police said.
Responding Miami Beach officers found Thomas “bleeding profusely on the floor and…unconscious.”
“They [the suspects] left Det. Thomas as dead on the ground,” said Miami Beach police spokeswoman Det. Vivian Hernandez
Later that day, while Miami Beach police were still at the scene of the shooting, a break in the investigation came. A Plantation police officer called to say a suspicious gunshot victim had arrived at the Plantation Hospital around 9 or 10 a.m. seeking treatment and was scheduled to be transferred to Broward General Hospital.
The victim turned out to be Lee, who was later identified by Thomas in a photo line-up. Lee had been wounded in the leg and lower extremities.
Henriquez was grazed in the ribs and DNA evidence left at the scene helped to identify him, Hernandez said.
Henriquez and Lee have extensive criminal histories, and the former was on probation, police said.
Henriquez has had a slew of felony arrests dating back to 1997, including a second-degree felony involving a homicide. His latest was a 2010 armed robbery.
Lee has similarly had a range of felonies. He was charged with strong-arm robbery in 1999 and aggravated assault with a firearm in 2004.
Thomas is now conscious and will be receiving skin graft surgery at a later date. The two other NYPD officers whom he was with have returned home.
His family says they’re thankful the tough detective survived.
“He’s the backbone of our family,’’ Brandon Thomas, 23, said. “He’s everything to us.”