Police officer honored after stopping man from starting fire - WSVN-TV - 7NEWS Miami Ft. Lauderdale News, Weather, Deco

Police officer honored after stopping man from starting fire

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Officer Mario Gutierrez and wife Laura Gutierrez Officer Mario Gutierrez and wife Laura Gutierrez

MIAMI INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, Fla. (WSVN) -- Four months after nearly losing his life while trying to stop a man from starting a fire at a gas station, a local police officer is back on the job.

Miami-Dade Police Officer Mario Gutierrez is being hailed a hero after putting his life on the line and being seriously injured while on duty, back in October. He was bitten and stabbed with a screwdriver 17 times. "My thumb is where he first bit me, and my arm is where he initially slashed me, the first slash," said Gutierrez. "My intent that night was to take him into custody, take him to jail. It's that simple. He was committing a crime, and I was going to arrest him, and then he then took it to another level, and I was fighting for my life," Gutierrez.

After four months off the job, the 21-year veteran with the Miami-Dade Police Department was given honorary coins and plaques and a Miami-Dade Fire Rescue T-shirt and hat during a honorary ceremony at the Miami International Airport, Wednesday morning. His wife and fellow officers were among those who attended the ceremony.

Miami-Dade Police Department Director J.D. Patterson said, "By him being recognized here today is nothing more than the airport's way of saying thank you, and we need to continue to say thank you to our officers because you never know."

Police said, back in October, while on a routine patrol near MIA, Gutierrez observed a man tampering with the lid that accesses a nearby Shell gas station's underground gasoline storage tank. The man was attempting to start a fire on top of the valve system, which could have ignited a large explosion.

Gutierrez quickly activated the emergency shut off valve to the fuel pumps and then confronted the man, who then bit him and stabbed him multiple times with a screwdriver. Police said Gutierrez was forced to fire. The man died from the gunshot wound and Gutierrez was hospitalized. He then spent four months recovering from multiple injuries he sustained.

Gutierrez said, "It's overwhelming. It's a little bit uncomfortable because I'm not used to that, but I thank everyone for what they've done for me and my family. It's an honor. It's a very humbling experience."

Wife Laura Gutierrez said, "I'm so proud of all the men and woman who serve, especially proud of my hero, and that he is still here with me."

Gutierrez is back in uniform and working the streets, happy to be alive. "I healed at home. My wife walked through that process with me and helped me. I'm back to full duty, back to physically 100 percent, can do everything, so I feel good," said Gutierrez. "I'm lucky, and God was with me that night."


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