MIAMI LAKES, FLA. (WSVN) - The sister of a woman who, police said, was stabbed by a man before he was fatally shot by a responding police officer in Miami Lakes, hailed the law enforcer as a hero.
Yudmila Rodriguez and Miami Police Officer Rafael Horta met face-to-face at the Miami Fraternal Order of Police Headquarters, Monday afternoon. Rodriguez said the rookie officer saved the life of her sister, 27-year-old Yurine Rodriguez-Perez.
During a news conference Rodriguez wrapped her arms around Horta and expressed her gratitude. “If you hadn’t been there, my sister would have been dead. You did the right thing in the right moment,” she said. “You were there at the right time. From all my family, thank you to you.”
Witnesses described the terrifying moments when Rodriguez-Perez was nearly killed by her ex-boyfriend, Relvi Rodriguez-Palenzuela, at the intersection of 64th Avenue and Miami Lakes Drive, Sunday, just after 7 p.m.
But Horta, who was off duty and on his way home, heard the 911 call and intervened.
“I see the police and a gun in the hand, and he was [saying], ‘Outside the car. Outside the car,'” said Walter Vilella.
A woman who asked not to be identified or show her face on camera said Rodriguez-Palenzuela was holding his ex-girlfriend at knifepoint. “He was holding the lady on her neck,” she said.
By the time Horta arrived at the intersection, police said, the assailant, who had dated Rodriguez-Perez for several months before they separated in July, had stabbed his ex-girlfriend after the former couple’s fight escalated.
Investigators said Rodriguez-Palenzuela did not comply with Horta’s command to get away from the victim and refused to stop the assault, forcing the officer to fire.
“It’s like, ‘bang, bang, bang, bang,'” said Vilella.
“It was his life or my sister’s life,” said Rodriguez.
Rodriguez-Palenzuela died at the scene.
Paramedics airlifted Rodriguez-Perez to Jackson Memorial Hospital with multiple stab wounds. She has since been released.
Horta, who has been on the job five months, is unable to speak on the incident, but he did read a statement. “I’m proud to be a Miami Police officer. I thank God for giving me the honor of serving my community,” he said. “I pray that Ms. Rodriguez[-Perez] heals from her injuries, and I’d also like to thank the outpouring of support from our residents.”
The officer involved was placed on administrative duty as the Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigates, per protocol.
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