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August 2001

Officer Edward Diaz

Orlando (FL) Police Department

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund has announced the selection of Officer Edward Diaz as the August 2001 Officer of the Month. Officer Diaz is with the Orlando Police Department. He is currently on medical leave.

As a child, Eddie Diaz was captivated by police shows on television and learned from watching them that there is a definite line between good and evil. Like his television heroes Eddie wanted to make a difference and serve the people in his community. He knew that he was meant to serve people and to meet, and get to know the people in his community.

In 1988 Eddie joined the United States Navy and served as a corpsman with a Marine Corp combat unit during Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm. He was there for the sailors and marines who needed medical attention and was awarded several personal and unit citations, including three Bronze Stars. After receiving an Honorable Discharge in 1992 he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from Florida State University. In December 1997 Eddie felt the need to get back to the business of helping people and joined the Orlando, Florida Police Department. For a little more than two years, Officer Eddie Diaz lived his dream.

"I have to believe that I am here for a reason," says Eddie Diaz. "God gave me a second chance." These words resonate with conviction the spirit of Officer Eddie Diaz after surviving every officer's worst nightmare. In the early morning hours of February 3, 2000 during a traffic stop, a series of events changed his life forever.

At approximately 1:30 a.m. Officers Diaz and George DeSalvia stopped a vehicle for a traffic violation. What the officers did not know was that the driver was wanted for a series of armed robberies at numerous pawnshops taking with him several firearms. Before the officers could handcuff the suspect, he withdrew a pistol, firing upon the officers at point blank range. Eight hollow-point rounds entered Officer Diaz's skull, back and shoulders. Still conscious, but partially paralyzed, Officer Diaz was able to radio for help and the suspect was apprehended several hours later. Unfortunately, Officer DeSalvio's wounds were fatal and Eddie was left to mourn the death of his partner and friend. Officer DeSalvio's murderer was ultimately convicted and awaits sentencing.

The doctors felt the injuries Officer Diaz suffered were so extensive that he would never walk again. Just eighteen months later he is in the process of proving them wrong. His daily physical therapy includes hours of weight lifting, muscle-memory training and motor coordination. Although he has minimal feeling in his feet, remarkably he is able to walk with the aid of only one cane.

Officer Diaz' psychological and spiritual healing have been as remarkable as his physical recovery. Prior to the shooting, Eddie attended a class on stress management, conducted by Thomas Gillan, a former police officer, who currently serves as the director of Orlando's Catholic Diocese's Criminal Justice Office. The two reconnected immediately after the shooting and developed a close, caring relationship. "He's a walking miracle," says Gillan. "I asked him to speak to the student body at my son's school. He spoke about forgiveness, how precious life is, and how it can all change in an instant."

Eddie takes some comfort in the fact that the man who shot him and killed Officer DeSalvia will never be free to harm anyone else. He leaves the rest to his faith and the criminal justice system. Whatever sentence is handed down in this case, Diaz believes that the law is paramount in society and hopes that God will give the justices the wisdom to make the right decision. He says, "I will be at peace with whatever sentence is rendered. You have to have a strong faith and a belief in God to make the right choices. If you don't, it will tear your apart."

Since his recovery, Officer Diaz has been using his second chance at life promoting forgiveness and compassion. He speaks at churches, schools, other civic organizations and wherever he can spread his message of forgiveness and love of God. The Florida House of Representatives issued Resolution 9125 which recognizes Diaz' bravery, devotion and dedication to the citizens of the state of Florida. The Florida Catholic Conference has asked him to serve as an advocate for victims and to participate in a video it will produce, for distribution throughout the state, regarding the need for forgiveness within our society. Eddie Diaz has much to teach us all.