DORAL (CBSMiami) — Dramatic new videotape shows how close Miami-Dade Police Officer Mario Gutierrez came to losing his life when he was viciously stabbed by a suspect who had set fire to a gas station near Miami International Airport last October.
The videotape is a re-enactment of the events surrounding the night of October 29th, 2013 when the 55-year-old Gutierrez was on routine patrol as a motorcycle officer and stopped at a Shell gas station on Lejeune Road at Northwest 25th St.
Police say Gutierrez saw 51-year-old Dominque Jean setting fire to newspapers while trying to ignite the gas station through its underground valve access port. Gutierrez activated the station’s emergency shut-off button, preventing a fire that might have impacted the airport. But he was stabbed in the arms, chest, hands, stomach and leg before being forced to fire his weapon, killing Jean.
The video with the re-enactment was seen by more than 800 police officers and their families and friends in Doral on Saturday night as Gutierrez was named the Officer of the Year by the Miami-Dade Police Benevolent Association. CBS4’s Peter D’Oench and his photographer were invited to the event for a CBS4 exclusive.
Gutierrez received a standing ovation when he was announced as the winner.
“I am overwhelmed and I want to thank the P.B.A. and everyone who voted for me,” said Gutierrez. He told D’Oench, “It’s mind boggling and I am still spinning around in my head and trying to come to grips with this in my mind. I needed to stop him. At that moment I thought I was going to die. It crossed my mind. I wanted to do anything to stay alive.”
“It’s simple,” he said modestly. “It is all about taking someone into custody. It is a simple concept. It is what police officers do. To me, I am still coming to grips with this. I am a simple guy. This is all I wanted to do at the end of my career. I have four more years left. I never dreamed this would happen to me. I want to thank my wife. She was at my side. I could not have done this without her and I love her very much.”
Fellow police officers and their families and friends listened silently as the re-enactment videotape was played. And as it showed the suspect repeatedly stabbing Gutierrez, there was a series of loud groans from the audience. There was also applause as Gutierrez was able to survive.
On the tape, Gutierrez talks about the attack.
“He immediately attacked me with a large knife,” says Gutierrez. “He cut my arm. He attacked me with a screwdriver and as I tried to spin and get away from him, he comes down on top of me from behind. Her bends down and bite my thumb. He tried to bite my thumb off.”
His attacker keeps stabbing him even though he is partially struck by a Taser. Finally, Gutierrez is able to shoot and kill Jean.
The re-enactment shows Gutierrez being knocked onto the ground and losing his glasses. He said he thought of his loved ones while being attacked.
P.B.A. President John Rivera told D’Oench, “Within a split second, he almost lost his life and his family almost lost him. The community almost lost him. He’s a big hero. This would have been an international incident for homeland security. It would have affected tourism with a fire spreading from the airport. It would have shut down the airport. Millions of dollars were at stake here in addition to his own life.”
Gubernatorial candidate and former Governor Charlie Crist was at the event and said, “They’re heroes. Let’s face it. These people are willing to risk their lives to keep us safe. Anything we can do to bestow honors on them is important.”
Crist said, “We have to protect them too. Those of us in society who are not law enforcement officers, we have a duty to thank them for what they do for all of us at this time and not just tonight but every day and every night. They’re putting it on the line. They are what’s between us and somebody getting killed or getting raped or somebody in their home getting robbed. God bless them.”
Gutierrez has said all he wanted to be in life was a police officer.
“I want to continue as a motorcycle officer,” he said. “I have four more years left. This is what I do.”
This was the second honor in a week for Gutierrez. He was in Washington, D.C. last week as the only Florida police officer to receive the TOP COPS award from the National Association of Police Officers.
Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez last week issued a statement praising Gutierrez, saying, “Police officers often encounter situations that call for them to be willing to lay down their lives for people they have never met. But this is what heroes do.”
Gutierrez in the past also credited fellow Miami-Dade Police Officer Juan Leon who found him wounded, put him in a police unit and rushed him to Jackson Memorial Hospital. “He saved my life,” said Gutierrez in an interview in December of 2013. “He got me there in 3 minutes.”
Gutierrez has been a police officer for more than 22 years.