ORLANDO, Fla. - As Orlando police officer Jason Hajek continues to recover from two gunshot wounds at Orlando Regional Medical Center, Local 6 spoke exclusively with the man who was inside the suspect's car moments before the shooting.
[RELATED: OPD officer shot during traffic stop]
Police said 22-year-old Jarod Gardner was with Demetrius Patterson, 23, when officer Hajek tried to pull them over around 2:40 Tuesday morning.
Gardner said he doesn't know why the officer tried to pull them over, but both he and Patterson bailed out of the vehicle and fled on foot. Patterson allegedly opened fire striking the officer in the stomach and thigh.
Gardner said he didn't see the gunfight, but he thinks Patterson is innocent.
"I don't think he shot the police officer," said Gardner. "There's something behind that. I don't think he'd do nothing like that, I don't think so."
Investigators said the officer was able to fire back, hitting Patterson in the foot. He was later arrested by the SWAT team, put on a stretcher and taken to Orlando Regional Medical Center before being hauled off to jail.
Gardner was found hiding in some bushes, questioned by police and released while the investigation continues.
"People that know him, know that he ain't no bad guy," said Gardner.
But Patterson's record tells a different story. According to police, he's had a 14-year criminal career beginning when he was just 9-years-old.
"In my opinion this was a failure of the justice system," said Local 6 legal analyst Eric Dubois.
We asked Dubois to review part of Patterson's rap sheet which includes 17 arrests and 42 charges, including 26 felonies.
"I don't think there's any more that the judicial system could have done, but I think there's more that we as a society need to look at in the prison system," said Dubois. "What are we doing for these people when they're in (to prepare them) for when they come out and they're going back to society."
Patterson is now in the Orange County Jail without bond facing charges for attempted murder on a law enforcement officer.
Even so, Gardner hopes he's set free soon.
"I hope he walk up out of there tonight," said Gardner. "I hope he walk out of there tonight. If he can get a bond, we can go get him right now."
Patterson spent three years in prison from 2009 until Oct. 2012 for carrying a concealed firearm, which is the maximum sentence. According to Orange County court records, he was arrested in April 2013 for possessing marijuana, but that case is still pending.
Tuesday's violence broke out on Gardner's 22nd birthday and one day after Patterson celebrated his 23rd birthday.
Gardner said he never knew his friend had a gun and doesn't know why Patterson fled from police or opened fire.
Gardner admits he ran from the officer because he is currently out of jail on bond and was carrying marijuana at the time.
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