The Key Biscayne officer who was shot in the neck by a gunman on Florida's Turnpike earlier this month said Thursday she thought her life would end on the highway.
"When I was shot the first thing I thought was I was going to die," Officer Nelia Real said. "When you get shot in the neck that's the first thing that your reaction is, okay, I'm going to die today."
Real told reporters she thought there was a fatal crash on the Turnpike and that is why she pulled over to help near the Hollywood Boulevard exit two weeks ago, on May 10.
Real, a 16-year Key Biscayne Police veteran, was off-duty and on her way home. But she found herself in a perilous situation when she encountered 23-year-old David Edwin Bradley, of Miami Gardens, who authorities say had been involved in an earlier crime spree that included two carjackings and the armed robbery of a Pembroke Pines barbershop.
Bradley opened fire on Real, shooting her in the neck through her cruiser's window. He had just crashed the second vehicle he carjacked into another car on the Turnpike, according to authorities.
Bradley shot a second officer, ICE Agent Gabriel Martinez, before turning the gun on himself. Martinez was also hospitalized and later released.
Real told reporters at the Key Biscayne Village Hall Thursday afternoon that she believed the gunman was possessed and that she feels for his family.
She and her partner of 12 years, Yolanda Dearmas, who was at her side at the news conference, mentioned their Christian faith, said they hold no hard feelings toward Bradley, and talked about forgiveness.
It was the first time Real has spoken publicly about the shooting. Key Biscayne Police Chief Charles Press was also at the news conference, a day after officials confirmed Real was released from the hospital and was recovering. The room was filled with reporters and a few police officers.
Real has multiple bullet fragments – one in her thyroid, one in her lung, one near her carotid artery, and two in her throat. She said it is still hard for her to breathe and talk and that she has no feeling on the left side of her face.
The FBI is still investigating the shooting.
Broward Sheriff's Officer Deputy Osvaldo Petitfrere, who was on his way to work, stopped to help Real after it happened.
Police say Petitfrere opened fire on Bradley and was able to get Real into his car and rush her to a nearby hospital. Authorities have credited Petitfrere's quick actions with saving her life.
Real said she reverted to her training after getting shot. She got out of her vehicle and went over to to the BSO deputy’s vehicle.
"The first thing I did was lay on the ground behind the car, and I laid on the ground and I put my feet up on the bumper because that's what I was taught – with an injury just keep the blood in your organs," she said.
Moments later Petitfrere rushed her to the hospital in his cruiser.
Real was in serious condition when she arrived there but later made a "miraculous recovery," Press has said.
"He's my hero, if he wouldn't have been there I wouldn't be here today," Real said of Petitfrere. "I would've bled to death."