BROWARD COUNTY, Fla. â€” Maury Hernandez is returning to life after facing death.
The 28-year-old undercover Broward Sheriff’s deputy was shot in the head during a foot chase nine months ago and spent two weeks in a deep coma. Now he has embarked on a long path to recovery.
Splitting numerous gruelling hours each week between a Sunrise rehabilitation center and his parents’ home in Hialeah, Hernandez struggles to do what most take for granted.
“It’s a tremendous effort. I’ve never had to concentrate so much to command my hand to move,” the recovering officer said, in an interview conducted in Spanish.
His devoted parents, Mauricio and Rosa Hernandez, are convinced his recovery is a miracle. That’s also how their son’s neurosurgeon, Dr. Luis Rodriguez, who headed the medical team that treated the deputy, sees it.
Today, an immense scar on the right side of his head, partial paralysis of his right hand, and his inability to walk without a cane have not diminished Hernandez’s desire to rejoin the force.
“Before the incident, I was content to be a police officer. Now I am happy to go to my therapy and recover little by little,” said Hernandez, who worked as a detective with the Sheriff’s Selective Enforcement Team. The unit works street crimes, robberies and prostitution in Pembroke Park and West Park.
“They’re very active districts,” said Hernandez, smiling in the living room of his parents’ home. The Cuban immigrants arrived in South Florida in 1983.
The walls are filled with photographs of the deputy, along with his 23-year-old brother, JosuÃ©, who joined the Hallandale Beach Police Department last year. The photos show the brothers’ childhood, graduations, baseball games and the family’s close relationship.
“I got inspired by my brother. I wanted to follow his example,” said JosuÃ©, while pinching his brother’s cheek.
The younger sibling remembers sitting with his brother and getting his advice on Aug 3, the day before JosuÃ© Hernandez began his first shift in Hallandale Beach.
“We spoke, and it went very well that Saturday. I remember that it was the same day my parents returned from a Cuba visit. On Monday, Maury was shot,” JosuÃ© Hernandez recalled.
On Aug. 6, Maury Hernandez remembers chasing a man on a motorcycle in Pembroke Park. David Maldonado, 24, began firing a gun as he fled on foot.
“The last thing I remember was using the radio to inform [Maldonado] had a weapon. My mind went blank afterward,” he said.
Hernandez took a shot to the head that left him in critical condition for two weeks, a period in which family, friends and colleagues gathered at the hospital every day to pray for the fallen officer.
In 2007, seven law enforcement officers encountered violent attacks in Broward and Miami-Dade counties. Three died: Sgt. Chris Reyka in Pompano Beach, Deputy Paul Rein in Fort Lauderdale and Miami-Dade Police Officer Jose Somohano.
After two weeks in a deep coma, Hernandez’s first recollection was seeing his brother’s silhouette.
“I believe Maury wanted to see his brother, wanted to make sure he was safe after his day at work,” their mother, Rosa Hernandez, said tearfully in front of her sons.Rosa Hernandez, a 15-year teacher at a Hialeah school, took a leave of absence to give her son’s recovery top priority.
“We are very grateful for the public’s affection,” his father said. “For example, at a theater in Fort Lauderdale and a different one in Little Havana, people who recognized Maury would come to greet us and tell us in English and in Spanish that they had prayed for him.”
Maury Hernandez prefers not to say what he thinks about Maldonado, who was charged with attempted first-degree murder.
He said only that he waits for authorities to prosecute him. Meanwhile, Hernandez receives moral and financial support from his colleagues.
“I prefer to concentrate on my recovery and in returning to police work. I want to share my experience with rookies so they can hear about my case from me and not have to read about it in a book,” said Hernandez.
On May 20, ASIS International, an international safety organization, will honor Hernandez’s heroism.
“I am very grateful to the many people who have placed me in an important place in their lives. I am committed to continuing with my therapy in order to continue serving our community,” he said.