GPD officers save man who shot himself in leg

Published: Wednesday, June 12, 2013 at 11:47 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, June 12, 2013 at 11:47 a.m.

When Gainesville Police Officer Crystal Castor walked into the hotel lobby early Wednesday morning, she saw a man sitting in a chair with blood all around him.

Enece Guerrier, 36, of Orlando, had his hand inside the waistband of his pants and was putting pressure on a wound with a towel. Castor told him to lift his hands to show that he was unarmed, as she removed the towel.

Blood spurted in the air, in time with his heartbeat. Castor knew from her training that the man was bleeding from a severed femoral artery. Without immediate treatment, the man would die.

Quick action by Castor and fellow Gainesville Police Officers Mary Davis and Cpl. Matt Walters saved the life of Guerrier, who had accidentally shot himself with his own .45-caliber pistol in his room at the Sleep Inn & Suites, 4110 SW 40th Blvd.

The call came in at 1:10 a.m. and Castor was there by 1:13 a.m., a minute behind the other officers. Protocol calls for the first two officers on scene to secure the area while the third or fourth officer begins caring for the wounded.

Once she realized the severity of Guerrier’s wound, she knew he could bleed out within minutes. Castor said her training took over.

“You really do revert back to what you’ve been taught,” she said. “It was like I’d done it before, even though I’d never really done it before.”

The closest she had come was when she practiced staunching a wound on a dummy that spurted blood from the same location.

Castor removed the victim’s pants to get better access to the wound, which was in the crease where his side connects his torso to the rest of his body.

Someone reached into her trauma kit and handed her some combat gauze, which is treated with a chemical that helps stop the bleeding. Unraveling it, she packed the material deep into the wound.

“My finger was pretty much swallowed by the hole,” she said.

There wasn’t enough combat gauze to stop the spurting completely, so she and others helped lay him on the floor to administer a tourniquet. But the wound was positioned too high, so she elevated his leg to lessen the bleeding by redirecting the rush of blood toward the center of his body.

Another officer noticed blood was still leaking onto the floor beneath Guerrier, so they checked for an exit wound, found it and placed a towel underneath it.

Davis applied pressure to Guerrier’s wound the entire time he was on the floor, Castor said, putting her full weight on it to stop the bleeding. She never let up.

Guerrier was lucid for most of the time, although at one point he started to lose consciousness.

“It seemed like he was fading a bit, but our officers did a great job talking to him, asking questions about his family,” Castor said.

Emergency medical workers soon arrived and took Guerrier to UF Health Shands Hospital, where he was rushed into surgery.

Jeff Lane, assistant fire chief for Gainesville Fire Rescue, said it is possible to bleed out and die from injuries to the femoral artery.

“If left untreated, you can die in a few minutes,” he said.

Guerrier appears to have helped himself by applying pressure with a towel then leaving his room and heading for the hotel lobby for help.

Castor said there was a little blood in his hotel room, where officers found his pistol. The wall along the hallway that leads to the elevator had small spatters of blood, and the elevator button was bloody.

The lobby, she said, was another story.

Bruce Cribbs, general manager of the Sleep Inn and Suites, said the night clerk handled the situation well, calling 911 first and him second. By the time he got there, the situation was under control.

“This is not something really you ever prepare for and it’s not something that happens very often in any hotel, much less your own,” he said.

He said staff didn’t receive any word from other guests about the gunshot. Most of them were unaware anything had happened, he said.

“Most of the mess was confined to the elevator and the lobby floor, and you know, we got that cleaned up within an hour or two,” he said.

This incident highlights the importance of gun safety, said GPD spokesman Officer Ben Tobias.

“If anyone is going to be handling a handgun, it’s important to do so safely,” he said. “Sometimes people who carry guns on a regular basis can get complacent about gun safety, but its import to always remain vigilant.”

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