DORAL (CBSMiami) – An undercover Miami-Dade Police detective who was shot three times during a shoot-out at a suspected marijuana grow house last July has been named the 2012 Police Officer of the Year by the Miami-Dade Police Benevolent Association.
CBS4’s Peter D’Oench reported exclusively that the announcement came Saturday night at the 20th Annual Law Enforcement Awards Gala held by the PBA at the Doral Golf Resort and Spa
The 35-year-old Saavedra made history. It was the first time in 20 years that someone in law enforcement was twice named Officer of the year by the PBA. Saavedra was named PBA Officer of the Year in 2004.
Saavedra drew a huge ovation from hundreds of officers attending the Gala. The PBA said Saavedra was honored for his “clear thinking and courage under fire during a shoot-out at a suspected grow house,” that occurred at a Southwest Miami-Dade home on July 31st of last year.
“This job is a passion,” said Saavedra. “It’s what I choose and what I dreamed of doing. It’s a very difficult job. It’s an occupation that comes with a lot of danger and we all know what we’re getting into when we join the police department.”
Saavedra told D’Oench, “I can’t wait to get back to work. It means a lot. Helping the community is what I love doing and I can’t wait to return to what I was doing.”
Saavedra was one of 11 finalists for Miami-Dade PBA Officer of the year.
Saavedra was captured on surveillance tape approaching the suspected grow house and then questioning suspect Luis Estevanell after he began to shout “Police! Police!” in what Saavedra said was an attempt to alert other subject at the home.
WEB VIDEO EXTRA BELOW: WARNING GRAPHIC VIDEO AND AUDIO: POLICE SHOOTOUT SURVEILLANCE VIDEO
The tape shows Gerard Delgado firing at Saavedra and an F.B.I. special agent and other officers. Saavedra returned fire and continued to do so, even as he lay wounded on the ground. He also said Estevanell stomped on him as he was on the ground.
Saavedra was able to drag himself across a street and call a dispatcher.
Delgado was shot and killed. Estevanell was taken into custody and charged with 2nd degree murder because of the death of Delgado, the attempted murder of a police officer, possession of cocaine and trafficking in marijuana.
Delgado was denied bond after a hearing that ended Wednesday and which included Saavedra’s dramatic testimony about this incident.
PBA President John Rivera said of Saavedra, “He’s an incredible man. It goes to show you how important our survival training is.”
Miami-Dade Police say they found 80 pounds of marijuana worth $90,0000 at the suspected grow house near Coral Way and Southwest 60th Court.
Saavedra told D’Oench he still has nerve damage in his bladder and stomach from the two bullets that struck him in the stomach.
“One went in and out and another bullet went across my abdomen. I also still had a bullet lodged in the left side of my hip,” said Saavedra.
Saavedra is an 11-year veteran of the police department. He’s gone through many surgeries and hopes to return to work within the next three weeks.
He said it is a miracle that he is alive. After the shooting, he told his daughter, “God loves cops. Daddy is going to be OK.”
Saavedra told D’Oench that he hopes to return to undercover work.
“This job is a passion,” he said. “It’s what I chose and what I dreamed of doing.”
Other PBA Police Officer of the year finalists included: Jodlyn Antoine of North Miami Police, Lt. Joe Gonzalez, Sgt.
Jorge Rodriguez and Officers Ruperto Peart and Juan Gonzalez, Jr., of Miami-Dade Police, Sgt. Domingo Martinez and Detectives Martin Moraitis and Orlando Lopez of Miami-Dade Police, Officer Alexander Rosario of West Miami Police and Officer Otoniel Fernandez of North Miami Police.
Miami-Dade Correctional Officer Vidal Perez was named 2012 Correctional Officer of the Year. Miami-Dade Police Detective Orlando Lopez received the 2012 Arthur E. Felton Investigative Excellence Award and South Miami Police Officer Agustin Rodriguez received the 2012 Rookie Police Officer of the Year.
The event marked the PBA’s 50th Anniversary. The PBA represents more than 6500 law enforcement officers.
Miami-Dade Police Department Director J.D. Patterson received the Fred Maas Outstanding Law Enforcement Leadership award which the PBA said “embodies what it takes to be a true leader, thus serving as a model for others to follow.”
And seven-year-old A’Nari Taylor received the 2012 Citizen of the Year. She was honored for her bravery as the PBA said she “fought off a man who was trying to kidnap her cousin.”