Miami-Dade police officer John Saavedra, who was shot three times in a drug ambush Tuesday, will likely be home having dinner with his family by next weekend.
The 34-year-old undercover detective, who was wearing a bulletproof vest, was shot just below his vest, in his leg and abdomen. It’s not known whether other shots were fired that may have ricocheted off his vest, but the wounds he suffered were not life-threatening, according to surgeons at Jackson Memorial Hospital’s Ryder Trauma Center.
At a news conference Thursday, Dr. George Garcia, the trauma surgeon who operated on Saavedra, said the bullets penetrated his left thigh and the lower side of his abdomen, puncturing his small intestine and bladder, which were repaired.
“It could have obviously been much, much worse, depending on where the bullets went. His injuries were serious but, relatively speaking, reasonably managed,” Garcia said.
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One bullet remains lodged in his pelvis, but he will make a complete recovery, the doctor said.
“He’s in good spirits, up walking around,” Garcia said. “His family is with him and his brothers-in-arms are with him.” Saavedra is married with children, police said.
Saavedra, a narcotics investigator, was rushed to Ryder Tuesday evening after he was shot during a routine investigation known as a “knock and talk.” Thing went awry when a gunman jumped from a car parked nearby and opened fire on the officers, after they flashed their badges and announced that they were law enforcement.
A barrage of gunfire was exchanged about 6:45 p.m. at the home on SW 60th Ct. in a leafy, middle-class neighborhood just off of Coral Way. The gunman, Gerardo Delgado, 56, was killed by police gunfire.
Police found a hydroponic lab and bushels of marijuana inside the house. Authorities are investigating whether the growhouse is part of a larger marijuana trafficking operation run by gangs that have proliferated in South Florida over the past decade.
Another suspect, Luis Lazaro Estevanell, 56, was arrested on charges of second-degree felony murder, trafficking marijuana, manufacturing a controlled substance and cocaine possession. Estevanell, of 2760 SW 142nd Ct. in Miami, was godfather to Delgado’s son, family members said.
The son, also named Gerardo, said the home was used as an office for his father and godfather, who operated a jewelry business. He said Estevanell thought the officers were intruders, not police officers. He claimed that his father used his gun after seeing one of the officers tackle Estevanell.
Investigators however, say that the pair were protecting their cash crop, which amounted to 80 pounds of pot with a street value of $90,000.
Saavedra, a 10-year veteran, was part of a team of police officers and an FBI agent conducting surveillance of the home after getting a tip that it was marijuana nursery was growing inside. The team is part of HIDTA, the federal High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area task force, which has cracked down on growhouse operations in South Florida.
Garcia, a colonel in the U.S. Army who is director of the hospital’s Army training center, said the officer’s shooting particularly impacted him because of his experience operating on American soldiers while serving with surgical teams in Afghanistan.
“There’s a lot of similarities for me with police officers and soldiers; their willingness to do what they do and the sacrifices they are prepared to make is the same,’’ he said.