At first, Miami-Dade Detective John Saavedra recalled with business-like precision, the events leading up to the fateful marijuana grow house shooting.
The tip came in. Detectives drove by the West Miami-Dade house to investigate. His team later set up to watch the home, then walked up to the driveway when a man emerged from the front door.
But emotion soon wore heavy on Saavedra as he testified Wednesday for the first time about the shadowy gunman who suddenly popped out of a nearby BMW parked in the driveway, firing a weapon.
Saavedra paused, rubbing his hands over his face, holding back tears.
He knew immediately he was wounded: two bullets pierced his gut, just under his bullet-proof vest, he remembered.
“It was almost instant,” Saavedra said. “It all happened so quick. As soon as I began firing, he began firing.”
Saavedra took the stand in the criminal case against Luis Estevanell, charged with marijuana trafficking, aggravated assault on an officer, attempted felony murder and felony murder for the death of his armed cohort, Gerardo Delgado, who was shot to death by police during the firefight.
In Florida, someone who commits a felony — in this case marijuana trafficking — can be held responsible if someone dies during the commission of the crime.
The shootout was captured on stunningly clear surveillance video at the house, footage first aired in court last week.
On Wednesday, the court heard details directly from Saavedra, who has yet to return to active duty while recovering from his wounds; the White House honored him last week in Washington D.C. for his actions.
After the conclusion of Wednesday’s extended bond hearing, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Monica Gordo declined to allow Estevanell, 60, out of jail before trial.
The hearing began last week and included the testimony of an FBI agent and two detectives involved in the gun battle. Their testimony is unusual because officers normally do not testify while under criminal investigation by prosecutors for using deadly force while on duty.
The Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office, as it does in all police shootings, still is reviewing whether the officers were justified in firing at Delgado.
That day, July 31, 2012, Saavedra’s team had gone to the house at 2325 SW 60th Ct., to investigate a tip that it was being used to cultivate marijuana. The visit was a “knock-and-talk” to see if detectives could get consent to search the home, police testified.
Moments before, Delgado walked out of the house and puffed a cigarette, the video showed. Miami-Dade Detective Donald Law, across the street watching in an unmarked police car, radioed the team to spring into action.
But as he turned to check for oncoming traffic and reverse the car, Law lost sight of Delgado. He did not see Delgado, wearing a light print shirt with a collar, enter a BMW with dark-tinted windows parked in the driveway.
At that moment, as detectives began descending on the home, Estevanell — wearing a similar light print shirt as Delgado — walked out of the house.
“I thought it was the same person,” Law testified last week.
At that moment, Saavedra rounded the corner, passing Delgado in the BMW.
“I approached in a very friendly manner, actually had a smile on my face,” Saavedra said.
Estevanell immediately began yelling “Police!” and pointing in the air, striding toward the sidewalk.