STARKE — A man convicted of shooting and killing a Coral Gables police officer and wounding another one 33 years ago was put to death Wednesday at Florida State Prison.
Manuel Valle, 61, was executed by lethal injection for the murder of Officer Louis Pena, who had pulled Valle over for running a red light in 1978.
He was declared dead at 7:14 p.m.
Valle, strapped to the gurney in the execution chamber, chose not to make a final statement.
He did request a last meal: fried chicken breast, white rice, garlic toast, a Coca-Cola and peach cobbler. He ate most of it. More here.
In the afternoon, Valle met with a lay Catholic chaplain.
"He is very calm," Department of Corrections spokeswoman Gretl Plessinger said of Valle two hours before the execution.
The execution happened as scheduled. Valle had last-ditch appeals pending before the U.S. Supreme Court, but it did not rule to delay or block the execution before 4 p.m.
As the family of the condemned inmate, Valle's relatives could not witness the execution. But some of Pena's relatives were expected, as were current or former Coral Gables police officers.
A couple of Pena's former Gables colleagues came to the prison Wednesday as a show of solidarity. Among them was Harry S. Pickering, a retired police lieutenant who was working on April 4, 1978, the night Pena was shot and killed.
"I am glad this day is finally here," said Pickering, who described Pena as "a fine man and a superb officer."
Though some protesters had been expected across the street from the prison, as is typical before executions, none had shown up a few hours before it was scheduled to take place.
Valle was the first Florida inmate executed using pentobarbital as part of the lethal injection. The state changed its drug protocol earlier this year to include the sedative, which is intended to knock the inmate unconscious.
Two more drugs paralyze him and then stop his heart.
Florida used to use a different anesthetic, sodium thiopental, in its lethal injections. But the company that made the drug discontinued its production because it did not want the drug used for executions.
The Danish manufacturer of pentobarbital, Lundbeck, has also asked Florida to refrain from using its product in lethal injections.
-- Patricia Mazzei