The Miami-Dade Police officer who survived a shooting outside a Walmart was just feet away from the gunman who shot him multiple times, officials said Thursday.
Officer Manuel Gonzalez remained hospitalized in stable condition a day after the shooting but was expected to fully recover from his injuries, Miami-Dade Police Director Juan Perez said.
"Officer Gonzalez is in great spirits, we expect that he will make a full recovery," Perez said at an awards ceremony Thursday.
Gonzalez, 31, was off-duty and working security at the Walmart near 32nd Avenue and Northwest 79th Street when he was involved in a deadly encounter with 54-year-old David Facen.
Police said Gonzalez was investigating a reported shoplifting involving a flat screen TV when he encountered Facen in the parking lot. Perez said he's seen surveillance video of the incident, which showed Facen open fire on Gonzalez at close range.
"When I tell you it was in close proximity, it was within three feet when this gentleman produced a firearm and began shooting at our officer, so it's a blessing that he's still with us so we all have to be thankful for that," Perez said.
Gonzalez was able to return fire, killing the 54-year-old Facen at the scene. Gonzalez, who has been with the department for nearly seven years and is married with two children, was rushed to the hospital.
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.
"Everybody knows his past by now, perhaps he shouldn't have been on the streets," Perez said. "It's a shame that this individual was out there, he won't be out there any longer folks."
Police said the Florida Department of Law Enforcement would be investigating the shooting.