DORAL (CBSMiami) – Five weeks after he was nearly stabbed to death by a suspect who had set fire to a gasoline station, wounded Miami-Dade Police Officer Mario Gutierrez says he did “everything he could” to stay alive.
“Surviving. I had a fear of dying. I was doing basically everything I could to stay alive,” said the 55-year-old Gutierrez as he spoke for the first time since he was stabbed several times with a knife with an 8-inch blade and a screwdriver.
It happened on the night of October 29th as Gutierrez was on routine patrol and stopped at the Shell Gas Station on Lejeune Road at Northwest 25th Street by Miami International Airport.
Miami-Dade Police have said that the suspect—51-year-old Dominique Jean—had set fire to an underground gasoline tank. Miami-Dade Police Benevolent Association President John Rivera had told CBS4’s Peter D’Oench last month that Jean intended to burn down the gas station.
“There was a fire,” Gutierrez told D’Oench during an interview at Miami-Dade Police headquarters, “He was setting fire with a newspaper and I knew it was an emergency next to the gas pump. All I thought was the guy was there committing a crime and I needed to do my job and take him to jail.”
“All I know is the job needed to get done,” said Gutierrez. “There was a fire going on and it needed to be taken care of.”
“I was on traffic enforcement by the airport on my motorcycle and I saw the man doing something suspicious,” said Gutierrez.
Police sources have told CBS4 that Gutierrez attempted to use his taser but was forced to fire at least three shots, killing Jean.
“That’s the life of a police officer. It happens very fast. It’s what we expect. We have to be ready for it,” said Gutierrez. “It happened very fast. The speed was very fast. To break it down like that was unbelievable. It was just a stressful night and it was pretty hard for me to go through it but I did it.”
Gutierrez also credited the fellow Miami-Dade Police Officer who found him wounded, put him in a police unit and rushed him to the Ryder Trauma Center at Jackson Memorial Hospital.
Gutierrez said of motorcycle officer Juan Leon, “He saved my life. He got me there in three minutes.”
Gutierrez was not allowed to speak about specific details of the shooting and said there were still “a lot of blanks in my memory.”
Fellow officers and the PBA’s John Rivera have commended Gutierrez because his swift actions may have prevented a deadly explosion at the Shell gas station that is across the street from the Miami airport.
Gutierrez told D’Oench that he did not understand all the attention he was getting.
“I’m really surprised at all the attention to that,” he said. “I never really thought about that. It’s all about doing my job and taking a criminal off the street.”
Gutierrez has been a Miami-Dade officer for 21 years. He has been a motorcycle officer for 7 of those years. He is five years away from retirement.
“I love my job,” he said. “I love what I do. I can’t think of doing anything else. I want to be on a motorcycle again. It’s all I ever wanted to do is be a police officer. It’s what I do and that’s what I enjoy and the day I retire I’m going to miss it and miss the work I do.”
Gutierrez spoke with his wife Laura at his side. D’Oench last saw them when she was beside him as he was leaving Jackson Memorial Hospital after spending three days there.
“It’s one of the moments he has always prepared me for,” said Laura Gutierrez. “If anything ever happens to me in the line of duty you’re going to get a phone call. You’re going to have someone show up at your door. He always prepared me for that moment. But when this phone call came, it caught me off guard. I didn’t know how to react.”
“Our faith in God and the strength that he gave me has put us through this,” she said.
D’Oench asked Gutierrez’s wife how she felt about the actions her husband took.
“It doesn’t surprise me at all,” she said. “Because he takes his role when he puts on his uniform to protect and serve this community very seriously and that night he did exactly that with that potential danger. He knew what he had to do and acted very quickly.”
Laura Gutierrez said, “He was very well trained. He had the right mind set. He always said I will fight and stay alive and do whatever I have to do to protect this community and other lives and will always come home for you.”
Gutierrez plans to return to work as soon as his doctor gives him clearance to do so.
“And then I’ll get on my motorcycle again,” he said.