Gulfport, MS – A Mississippi mother credited a Gulfport police officer for saving the lives of her toddler and boyfriend, after he willingly parked himself between the woman’s family and the reckless driver of a stolen van.
Gulfport Police Department (GPD) Officer Luis Garcia was severely injured in the resulting crash, and was listed in “serious but stable” condition, the Sun Herald reported.
The incident occurred on Jan. 22, after police received a call that 18-year-old Eli Bosworth had stolen a white 2014 Chevrolet Express van, GPD Chief Leonard Papania said in a press release, according to the Sun Herald.
Officers located the van at approximately 6:30 p.m., but Bosworth refused to pull over, and led officers on a pursuit.
Courtney Brown said that she was traveling with her nearly 2-year-old daughter, as well as her boyfriend and mother, on the evening of the crash.
“We were at the red light at Creosote Road and Three Rivers Road and we saw a police car go through the red light,” Brown told the Sun Herald. “Once the light turned green, a second police car stopped in the middle of the road, and prevented us from going through…”
The second vehicle was being driven by Officer Garcia. In an instant, Bosworth came barreling through the intersection, and plowed directly into Officer Garcia’s patrol car.
Brown estimated that Bosworth was traveling between 75 and 80 mph at the time of the impact.
“The van crashed right into Garcia’s car and it almost knocked him into us,” Brown said. “But Officer Garcia put himself between us and the van and he saved our lives — that would have been us had he not stopped when the light turned green.”
The violent crash mangled the officer’s car so severely, that rescuers had to cut him out of it, WDAM reported.
“It was bad. We were just hoping he was alive,” Brown said.
Officer Garcia, a 10-year-veteran of the force, was transported for emergency medical care. Although his in stable but critical condition, he is expected to recover, Chief Papania told the Sun Herald.
“He has been talking with family and friends,” Chief Papania said. He added that the first thing Officer Garcia asked for was cake – so he was given cake.
“He is loved by his fellow workers, he is loved by his administration, and he loved by his city,” Chief Papania said.
Brown posted a statement of appreciation on Facebook following the incident.
“If it wasn’t for officer Garcia jumping in the way and blocking the intersection, my daughter and boyfriend would have been the ones to get hit and possibly die,” she wrote. “I am beyond thankful that officer Luis Garcia of Gulfport Police Department, saved our lives…he’s truly a hero.”
Bosworth was charged with felony fleeing and theft of a motor vehicle. His bond was set at $150,000.