The Miami-Dade Police officer who survived a shooting outside a Walmart is in good spirits Saturday after receiving some good news in time for the holidays.
It’s been a long couple days for officer Manuel Gonzalez, 31, following a scare in the line of duty. But on Saturday, he was finally released from the hospital.
“All the support I’ve had throughout my care, I feel like it’s overwhelming," Gonzalez said. "I feel great, I’m walking and I’m happy to be here. I’m happy to be alive.”
Gonzalez was off-duty and working security at the Walmart near 32nd Avenue and Northwest 79th Street when he was involved in a exchange of gunfire with 54-year-old David Facen. In the exchange, Gonzalez returned fire, killing Facen but was struck multiple times himself.
Gonzalez was investigating a reported shoplifting when he encountered Facen in the parking lot, police said. Officials said surveillance video of the incident shows Facen opening fire on Gonzalez at close range.
Facen is described as a career criminal with prior arrests for attempted first-degree murder, second-degree murder and aggravated battery, records showed. He had also spent about 20 years in prison.
Gonzalez, who has been with the department for nearly seven years and is married with two children, was working on his day off to make some extra cash for the holidays. His wife, a local teacher, received the terrifying news in her classroom.
“I thought it was a joke," Sherry Gonzalez said. "My heart immediately sunk.”
She’s been at his bedside all week and calls his recovery a miracle.
“All the support has been overwhelming and I appreciate it very much," she said.
Gonzalez still has to undergo therapy so there's no timetable about when he’ll be back to work, but he’s already eager to get back on the job.
“The traumatic experience that we went through we’re just lucky that I’m here and I can’t wait to get back at there and work that beat,” he said.
Police said the Florida Department of Law Enforcement continues their independent investigation into the shooting.