Criminal Justice

Man is charged with 1st-degree murder, accused of shooting panhandler in wheelchair

A 27-year-old Florida man has been charged by Miami-Dade police with first-degree murder after allegedly getting out of his car and shooting a panhandler in a wheelchair Tuesday morning near an Interstate 95 exit ramp.

Witnesses gave a license plate number to authorities, who caught up with suspect Rodney Louis, the registered owner, when he returned home, the Miami Herald reports.

Louis then fled, leading police on a chase that damaged at least two other vehicles before he was captured. In addition to murder, he was charged with fleeing and eluding police. Authorities said he had a .40-caliber Glock pistol in his possession, which is thought to be the weapon used in the crime.

The victim, Israel Zerquera, 58, died at the scene, slumped over in his wheelchair. He was known to those in the area as a regular who routinely asked for money, with a smile on his face and a cup in his hand. Usually he bought cigarettes and a drink at a nearby gas station convenience market, but Tuesday he never showed up there.

“This is a senseless killing,” said Mike Davis, a pastor, who was in the area of the crime on Tuesday. “This is a reflection of all of the community.”

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