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Manny Gonzalez knew that going to the annual Miami-Dade Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Ceremony would be “emotional.”
Gonzalez, who has been an officer for seven years, says it could have been him people were paying tribute to Thursday night.
“My name could be on that wall,” said Gonzalez, referring to the permanent memorial in Tropical Park that bears the name of the police officers in the county who died in the line of duty.
On Dec. 6, 2017, Gonzalez was working an off-duty shift at Walmart in Northwest Miami-Dade when he was shot six times in the shoulder, back and leg by a suspected shoplifter.
After four days in the hospital, he returned home only to have to go back to the hospital because of an infection. He then endured weeks in the hospital and several surgeries. His wife, children, relatives and police family got him through, he said.
“I look at things a lot differently now,” said Gonzalez, whose wounds came after he confronted convicted murderer David Facen. Gonzalez fatally wounded Facen in a gun battle.
Three weeks ago, he returned to duty.
John Jenkins, executive vice president of the Dade County Police Benevolent Association, said making it a year without having to add a name to the wall is something the group strives for.
“We want to honor those who have gone but we don’t want to have to add any names to the wall,” he said.
Gonzalez said he’s been to the ceremony — which, in its 37th year, brings together police agencies to recognize the fallen in a somber ceremony that includes the reading of each fallen officer’s name, prayers and a police flyover — once before, early in his career.
His wife, Sherry, who sat next him at the memorial, said it was important they attended as a family.
“It could have easily been me here without him,” she said. “I’m just glad he is here.”