Patchogue, NY – A Suffolk County police officer was stabbed nearly to death by a drunk driver on Saturday night but a good Samaritan nearby jumped in and applied a second tourniquet that may have saved his life.
The incident occurred at about 10:40 p.m. on April 10 after Suffolk County Police Officer Christopher Racioppo spotted a 1999 Mercedes Benz that was “driving erratically with no headlights” on South Ocean Avenue, WNYW reported.
Officer Racioppo attempted to stop the car but it crashed into a Nissan at the intersection of South Ocean Avenue and Brook Street.
Suffolk County police officials said the driver – later identified as 25-year-old Jonathan Nunez – jumped out of the Mercedes and fled, WNYW reported.
Officer Racioppo chased the suspect on foot and when he caught up with Nunez, a struggle ensued, WABC reported.
Police said Nunez stabbed the police officer in the leg and ruptured a major artery.
Guillermo Sandoval, a retired U.S. Marine, witnessed the incident and rushed to the wounded officer’s aid, WABC reported.
“He said, ‘I’m hurt, I need help, please help,'” Sandoval said. “At that point, I saw the wound which was on his thigh, a few inches down from his groin area. I said to him, ‘Brother, I’ll go and get a tourniquet. I’ll get a belt. Stay awake.'”
The good Samaritan raced inside his house to get a belt and called 911, and when he returned to the bleeding officer, backup had arrived and another officer had already put a tourniquet on Officer Racioppo, WABC reported.
Sandoval applied his belt as a second tourniquet.
“I prayed for him last night and I wish him well,” the veteran told WABC. “I hope that he recuperates as soon as possible. God bless him. God bless his family. And I give him a lot of credit for doing his job and going after the suspect.”
Two more good Samaritans, one of whom was a retired New York Police Department (NYPD) officer, helped officers to subdue the suspect while Sandoval assisted in caring for Officer Racioppo, WNBC reported.
Suffolk Police Sergeant Frank Samartino and another officer picked Officer Racioppo up, put him in the back of a police vehicle, and raced him to Long Island Community Hospital, WABC reported.
“I heard Officer Racioppo request rescue,” Sgt. Samartino recalled. “He stated that he was bleeding heavily and he was losing consciousness.”
“We rushed him full speed to a police vehicle that was some distance away,” he said.
The sergeant said the wounded officer went in and out of consciousness en route to the hospital, WABC reported.
“At one point in the vehicle, we thought we lost Officer Racioppo,” Sgt. Samartino said.
Officer Racioppo was transferred from the community hospital in East Patchogue to Stony Brook University Hospital, WNYW reported.
Doctors performed emergency surgery on the officer for the ruptured artery.
He remained in critical condition as of Tuesday, WABC reported.
Dr. James Vosswinkel, Chief of Trauma Surgery at Stony Brook University Hospital, said Officer Racioppo’s wound was life-threatening the officer would have bled to death in 20 minutes without the intervention and the application of tourniquets.
“We are not out of the woods,” Vosswinkel said. “We obviously hope life-threatening complications don’t set in. We’re very cognizant. We’re aware of him with the monitoring we’re doing.”
The doctor said Officer Racioppo lost the majority of his blood and remained and unable to talk.
He said he hoped the officer would be able to use his leg again, WABC reported.
“Hopefully we can get him through the consequences of shock that he’s suffering,” Vosswinkel said. “So that we really have the optimum outcome for such a severe injury.”
Nunez was arrested and charged with aggravated assault, driving while intoxicated, and resisting arrest, WNYW reported.