The Broward Sheriff's deputy who raced an injured officer to the hospital after she was shot by a gunman on Florida's Turnpike in Hollywood was hailed as a hero by local and federal officials Monday.
BSO Sheriff Al Lamberti, FBI Assistant Special Agent in Charge Timothy Donovan and others praised Deputy Osvaldo Petitfrere for his actions last Thursday which they say saved the life of Key Biscayne Police Officer Nelia Real.
"He knew what he needed to do and he just did it," Lamberti said during a news conference at BSO headquarters. "There is no doubt in any of our minds up here that his actions, no doubt, saved her life."
Real, a 16-year Key Biscayne Police veteran, was off-duty and on her way home when she stopped to help with what she believed was just a car crash near the Hollywood Boulevard exit.
Instead, 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 car-jackings and the armed robbery of a Pembroke Pines barbershop.
Bradley opened fire on Real, shooting her in the neck. Petitfrere, who was on his way to work, stopped to help.
"She was bleeding real bad from a gunshot wound to the neck, I applied a little bit of pressure," re recalled. "I knew the ambulance wasn't going to make it there in time to save her life or render aid, I didn't know how severe it was but it was pretty severe from all the blood I saw, coming out of her neck."
Lamberti said Petitfrere opened fire on Bradley but knew he didn't have long to get Real to the hospital.
"At a time like that, you really don't have time to think, you just react and you revert back to your training and that's pretty much what I did," Petitfrere said. "I just felt the need to get out of there."
Petitfrere rushed Real to nearby Regional Memorial Hospital.
"She was bleeding a lot, what kept running though my head was I didn't want her to die right there in my hands," he said. "She made it easy because she already applied pressure to the wound herself."
Petitfrere said Real couldn't speak during the ride, which he said felt like a half-hour but was probably closer to seven minutes.
"We didn't have much to say," he said.
Real was in serious condition when she arrived at the hospital, but on Monday, Key Biscayne Police Chief Charles Press said she had made a "miraculous recovery."
"She is doing much better and is on a long road but a sure road to recovery, so we're very very thankful for that," Press said.
The other officer shot by Bradley, ICE Agent Gabriel Martinez, was released from the hospital Saturday. He's still recovering at home, officials said.
A third officer, BSO Deputy Enid Conley, 23, with the Dania Beach district, was also hospitalized after she broke her leg in a separate car crash while en route to the scene. Lamberti said she was released from the hospital Monday.
Lamberti added that the fact Petitfrere was off-duty but had his police vehicle showed why it was necessary for officers to take home their police cruisers.
"This incident on Thursday proved the value of take home vehicles, this is a perfect example of having those vehicles," he said. "They were able to have that radio with them and react."
Donovan said the FBI is still investigating the shooting and declined to discuss any details or give more information on Bradley, who turned the gun on himself after shooting Real and Martinez.
Petitfrere credited his military training with helping him to react so quickly. He was on active duty with the U.S. Army for eight years including three trips to Iraq, and now serves with the Air Force Reserve, he said.
"Everybody's calling me a hero and whatnot but I was just doing what anybody else would do, any other law enforcement officer would have done," Petitfrere said. "I lost friends in Iraq so to me they're the heroes. Those that are not here anymore, they're heroes in my eyes."