HUNTINGTON, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A Suffolk County police officer had slim chances of survival when he was mowed down by a fleeing car thief last year, but now, the grateful cop has spoken out for the first time.
“My very first time,” said Detective Nick Guerrero. “It brings up quite a few emotions for me right now.”
Everything changed for Guerrero on picture-perfect Partridge Lane on the afternoon of Monday, Sept. 22, 2014. On patrol in plain clothes, Guerrero and his partner, Officer Heriberto Lugo, pulled over a stolen sport-utility vehicle.
But the car thief behind the wheel had other plans.
“He puts the car in reverse instead,” Guerrero said. “We could see his intentions, but we’re trying to give him the benefit of the doubt — and then he just takes off.”
Speeding away, the driver slammed right into Guerrero and essentially left him in the road for dead.
“Pretty much, yes — he just wanted to get away,” Guerrero said.
Guerrero was left with critical injuries.
“My ribs were fractured; a collapsed lung. I was bleeding out of my ear; multiple fractures in my face,” he said.
Back for the first time to the scene where his life nearly ended, Guerrero said he can exhale — knowing he beat slim odds.
“I had a one in three chance of surviving — one in three chance!” he said. “I mean, that’s amazing. That is, you know, it’s just — it makes me get teary-eyed. It’s just amazing. For me to be here today, I’m very fortunate; so fortunate.”
Guerrero spent one week in a coma and three months in hospitals, with brain trauma and broken bones.
He said he would have to relearn the most basic skills, including how to “walk, talk, survive.”
The admitted hit-and-run driver, Chad Morizsan, was sentenced last week to 25 years for what prosecutors called a drug-fueled reign of terror. After striking Guerrero, he carjacked an elderly woman and was caught within hours — shopping for a television.
Morizsan offered No apology. The judge called Guerrero a true hero as the humble cop was promoted to detective.
He credited support from his police family and beyond.
“I know I’ve said thank you once, and I will probably never say thank you enough,” he said. “I will say it every day.”
And now, the 36 year old marathon runner with a broad smile has been working to regain strength.
“There are some good days and bad days, but you know, I’ve got to look at the bright side of things — I’m alive, I’m here, and I’m going to continue. I’m going to strive,” Guerrero said.
He plans to return to police duty as soon as possible.
“I want people to know that the police are there for them,” he said.
Detective Lugo was also struck by the fleeing driver. His injuries were not life-threatening.
A second suspect in the case is due in court next week.