There were times when police officer Nelia Real feared she would not survive when a rampaging man fired at her car when she stopped to render aid on Florida's Turnpike.
Photographer: Courtesy Sun Sentinel
KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. — There were times when Key Biscayne Police Officer Nelia Real feared she would not survive.
"When I was shot, the first thing I thought was I was going to die," Real said.
But there she was Thursday, at Village Hall describing the May 10 madness. A rampaging David Bradley, 23, fired at her car as she stopped to render aid at what she thought was a fatal accident on the Turnpike in Hollywood.
"I didn't even have a chance to get out of my car," she said. "It was just [happening] so fast."
The bullet struck her windshield, shattering it. The fragments hit her twice in the throat, once near her vocal cords, near her thyroid, in a lung, near her carotid artery and several times in the left side of her face. There was nerve damage that mimics the symptoms of a stroke, with partial paralysis on the left side of her face.
"I have no feeling on this side of my face and my mouth doesn't work right," she said with a raspy voice.
Three days after being admitted to intensive care, Real learned that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officer Gabriel Martinez was shot in the arm, that Broward Sheriff's Deputy Enid Conley broke her leg in a crash, and that Bradley took his own life on the turnpike.
Real, 54, also learned that it was Broward Sheriff's Deputy Osvaldo Petitfrere who rushed her to Memorial Regional Hospital with blood gushing from her neck wound.
"He's my hero," she said. "If he wasn't there I wouldn't be here today, I would have bled to death."
As for Bradley, Real was forgiving.
"I saw his family on TV and it touched me because it made me feel like the person that I saw there was not the person that I saw [spoken about] on TV," she said. "It felt like he was a possessed person and basically I feel for the family because they lost someone."
Real remembers everything about the shooting and trip to the hospital.
"Emotionally, I play this scene back a lot in my head," she said. "I keep picturing the person and the shooting and everything over and over again."
Real was released from the hospital Wednesday. She is 18 months away from retirement and doesn't know if or when she will return to work, but she wants to.
"I think we have a miracle here," Police Chief Charles Presser said. "I've assured Nelly that this is her home [and] when Nelly is ready to come back to work she'll come back to work."
Real is also overwhelmed by the support she's received during the two weeks since the shooting and credits all the well-wishers for contributing to her survival.
"I even received a card from a person that I arrested," she said to a chorus of laughter. "So that tells you [something] right there; a get-well card."
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