By Madeleine List
The Charlotte Observer
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HAINES CITY, Fla. — A group of officers responding to a burglary “switched gears” to provide life-saving aid to a suspect who had been shot by the homeowner, according to a Florida police department.
Four officers found the suspect in a park about 100 yards away from the home that had been burglarized just before 2 a.m. on Jan. 27, according to a report from the Haines City Police Department.
The 27-year-old man had four gunshot wounds — two in his chest and two in his legs, Haines City Police Chief Greg Goreck said during a news conference posted on Facebook.
“These four officers were able to save this individual’s life,” he said. “They were able to stop the bleeding enough so that when he was finally airlifted to a trauma center … he is still alive. He is critical but stable.”
Body camera footage released by the police department shows officers kneeling on the ground to help the man. They put on blue disposable gloves and cut his shirt off to begin rendering aid and putting pressure on his wounds.
“We’re not gonna let you die,” one of the officers says.
At one point, the man who was shot can be heard saying that he has a baby on the way.
“You’re gonna be alive and well,” the officer says.
After about eight minutes, they begin to try to lift him into an ambulance that just arrived.
“This is going to hurt,” one of the officers warns, as the man cries out in pain.
Goreck said he was proud of the officers — Cpl. Joseph Elam, Officer Noel Feliciano, Officer Justin Vasquez, Officer Esmerelda Dominges and Sgt. Nick Dublino — for how they responded.
“They immediately switched gears,” he said. “… they went from trying to find this guy to trying to save his life. They didn’t care that he was a felon. He was just a human being.
“I could not be any more proud of my officers than I am right now,” he said.
The homeowner later told police that when he got home that night, he saw two unknown people inside his house and fired his gun at them, the report says. He then ran outside, got into his truck and called police law enforcement, according to the report.
Goreck said the shooting is still under investigation, but that Florida is a “stand your ground” state, meaning that people can use force to defend themselves without first trying to retreat from the perceived danger.
He also said that in Florida, “most people are armed.”
“It’s probably a logical conclusion that if you break into somebody’s house, you might end up getting shot by the homeowner,” he said.
Goreck said detectives are still working to identify the second suspect who was in the house.
Detectives found a ring near the burglary suspect that the homeowner said belonged to him and was worth around $1,000, according to the report.
The suspect will face charges of unarmed burglary of an occupied dwelling and grand theft, the report says.
Haines City is about 40 miles southwest of Orlando.
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