A Miami-Dade Police officer fatally shot a suspect who stabbed him at a Shell gas station Tuesday night, police said.
The 54-year-old officer, later identified as Mario Gutierrez, was rushed to Jackson Memorial Hospital's Ryder Trauma Center in serious condition and underwent surgery, police said.
Several fellow officers stayed at the hospital throughout the night and into Wednesday morning, as the officer's condition was upgraded to stable.
The incident began when the officer and his attacker had a struggle at the gas station at Northwest 25th Street and LeJeune Road, and the officer was forced to fire, leading to the suspect being pronounced dead on the scene, Miami-Dade Police Major Hector Llevat said.
A gas station employee told NBC 6 South Florida that the officer intervened when he saw the suspect, 51-year-old Dominique Jean, trying to light a fire near one of the gas pumps. That's when Gutierrez was assaulted, according to officers.
"Our officer was ferociously and fiercely attacked," Miami-Dade Police Director J.D. Patterson said Wednesday.
While Patterson spoke in general terms about the incident, declining to answer questions about specifics, he did say Jean "attempted to set some things on fire." Witnesses said Jean had opened a manhole cover and had started a fire with some paper over a gas valve while attempting to pour gas into the hole.
Police said Gutierrez was able to hit the emergency stop button to the gas valves, which possibly prevented an explosion.
Patterson also said Jean used "cutting" or "stabbing" instruments to attack Gutierrez.
The officer sustained puncture wounds to one of his forearms and his lower back. Police also said that one of his thumbs was nearly bitten off.
The officer was forced to open fire to protect himself, according to police. Witnesses said they heard as many as four gunshots during the confrontation.
Patterson said if the officer had not opened fire, the situation could have had a much different result.
"I'm glad he was able to respond with the force that was necessary to keep this assailant from taking his life," he said. "We live in a community where things like this do happen. We expect our officers to keep our entire community safe."
Records show Jean was in the U.S. illegally from Haiti and had been arrested four times over a four-year span for offenses including aggravated assault with a knife, carrying a concealed weapon and trespassing. The aggravated assault charge was from last December, when Miami Police said they found him trying to stab a man's neck.
Doctors said Gutierrez is expected to make a full recovery and be out of the hospital in the next couple of days. He is expected to be able to return to work in the next couple of weeks with full arm function.
"We are very happy with his progress," Dr. Tanya Zakrison said.
The officer, who has been with the police force for over 20 years, was on duty in the Miami International Airport district at the time of the incident, Llevat said.
John Rivera, the Miami-Dade County Police Benevolent Association’s president, said what happened Tuesday night is an unfortunate hazard of the job and that his heart goes out to the Gutierrez’s family.
“We always prepare our spouses, when you get that knock on the door and there’s uniformed people there, thinking the worst,” Rivera said. “I can only imagine what the wife felt when she actually saw it. You know, we talk about it to our wives, we try to prepare our children for that day, but you hope it never happens. Today it happened to this family.”
As detectives investigated, road closures around nearby Miami International Airport resulted In confusion and headaches for drivers.
One man was so desperate to make his flight he decided to run down LeJeune Road, but that plan backfired, when officers blocking the road told him he could not cross police tape.
"I've been stuck in traffic for an hour," another man complained.
A Miami International Airport spokesman briefly advised travelers headed to the airport to avoid State Road 112 and LeJeune Road due to the police-involved shooting.
The off-ramp from State Road 112 to southbound LeJeune Road was closed due to heavy police activity in the area.
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