ORLANDO, Fla. – More than two weeks after Orlando police Officer Kevin Valencia was shot while attempting to rescue four children from an armed domestic violence suspect, his family and fellow officers said he continues to recover.
Valencia has been in critical condition at Orlando Regional Medical Center since he was shot in the head just after 1 a.m. June 11 at the Westbrook Apartments. The shooting began a daylong standoff between the suspect, Gary Lindsey Jr., and Orlando police and Orange County Sheriff’s Office deputies.
Orlando police and Valencia's family provided an update on his condition Wednesday at OPD headquarters. Valencia remains in critical condition and is still in a coma, but he is responding to commands.
Valencia's wife, Meghan Valencia, said he wasn't expected to survive his traumatic brain injury and the fact that he did is a miracle.
On Thursday, Kevin Valencia will be transferred to the Shepard's Rehabilitation Center in Georgia.
"It's a wonderful facility for patients with trauma and helping them get back to communities," Meghan Valencia said. "(We're) humbled that they are willing to take Kevin and work with him and help him. I can't wait to see what he's going to do next."
The incident in which Valencia was critically injured began just before midnight June 10, when the children’s mother called 911 from a 7-Eleven saying that Lindsey, a felon, had abused her and taken her phone. She fled the apartment to call police, 911 calls show.
Valencia and Officer Emanuel Gonzalez were the first two officers to arrive at the scene. When Valencia and other police officers attempted to get the children out, he was shot by Lindsey. His fellow officers rushed him to ORMC, where he underwent emergency surgery in the trauma center.
After 9 p.m. June 11, SWAT officers entered the apartment to find all four children -- Irayan Pluth, 12, Lillia Pluth, 10, Aidan Lindsey, 6, and Dove Lindsey, 1 -- shot to death in their beds. Lindsey, the father of two of the children, was found dead in a closet from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, police said.
After mandatory counseling sessions and paid leave, Valencia's 11 squad members will be returning to work Wednesday night, Orlando police Chief John Mina said.
Officer Kevin Valencia’s Squad gave this pendant version of his OPD badge to his wife, Meghan. She wears it close to her heart, along with the heart pendant Kevin gave her when they were 12.
Meghan Valencia told reporters during a news conference three days after the shooting that her husband was fighting for his life. The couple, both in their 20s, have been together since they were in middle school.
Through tears, she spoke directly to the families of the four children who were killed by Lindsey, saying that every officer who tried to save them feels the "weight of the world" that they could not.
Orlando police have continued to ask for prayers and donations for the Valencia family as his road to recovery is expected to be very long.
Mina said Wednesday that the community support for law enforcement is extremely important. He said just the day before, a citizen walked up to an OPD officer with a gift card to a grocery store for the Valencia family.
Anyone looking to offer support to Valencia and his family can visit the GoFundMe account set up on his behalf.