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Haines City officers explain how they saved a suspect's life

Five Haines City officers responded to a call for a burglary. They ended up finding a suspect with gunshot wounds.

HAINES CITY, Fla. — Several Haines City police officers are being recognized for saving a man's life.

This man is no stranger to Haines City police officers as he has been arrested at least nine times in Polk County.

On Jan. 27, 2023, Haines City police officers responded to a call of a shooting. Investigators say a homeowner shot at two burglars in his home, hitting one of them four times. That happened to be Tyriek Washington.

K9 Cash with the Haines City Police Department tracked officers to Boomerang Park about 100 yards away from the house he was accused of breaking into.

When officers found Washington, they went to arrest him but immediately noticed he was injured.

"He was not doing OK so we immediately changed from oh we found this guy to this guy needs help," Cpl. Joseph Elam said. 

Washington had been shot four times by the homeowner. The Haines City Police Chief says that constitutes as stand your ground. The homeowner cooperated with police. 

Even though Washington was a suspect, they treated him to the best of their ability, saving his life.

“We noticed that we have to change our mentality from apprehending him to saving his life," Officer Noel Feliciano said. 

Five officers worked together to locate Washington's wounds. They found his chest and leg were bleeding. That's when Officer Justin Vasquez used his tourniquet to control Washington's bleeding. 

"We didn’t want him to die there," Vasquez said. "No matter what he did that wasn’t how we wanted him to go."

The officers worked together until the ambulance arrived. They describe those nine minutes with Washington's life in their hands as a long nine minutes.

"I didn’t know what to say, you’re in a different mentality in that moment so many things are going on … it’s like 'I got you, you’re going to be OK,'" Officer Esmeralda Dominges said. 

One week after saving Washington's life, all five officers sat down with 10 Tampa Bay. They recognized their hard work saying not only are they trained to do this, it was human instinct to help.

"As a full unit, I couldn’t be more proud of the people underneath me," Elam said. "They did an outstanding job. Couldn’t have gone any better I think."

The five involved are Officer Justin Vasquez, Cpl. Joseph Elam, Sgt. Nick Dublino, Officer Esmeralda Dominges and Officer Noel Felicano. 

Washington was airlifted to the hospital, but has since been recovering in the jail infirmary. 

There is a second suspect still on the run in this case. If you have information, contact the Haines City Police Department. 

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