(ORLANDO) — The wife of an Orlando, Florida, police officer shot and critically wounded allegedly by a paroled felon who killed himself and four child hostages, broke down in tears Wednesday as she asked people to pray for his survival, saying, “My boys need their daddy and I need my husband.”
Meghan Valencia — the wife of Officer Kevin Valencia and the mother of his two sons, one 5 years old and the other 8 months old — left his bedside at Orlando Regional Medical Center briefly to tell the world “my husband is a true, true hero.”
Officer Valencia was shot in the head about 11:45 p.m. Sunday as he and his squad approached an Orlando apartment where Gary Wayne Lindsey Jr. was allegedly holding four children, including two of his own, hostage after his girlfriend, the mother of all four children, reported he had battered her, police said.
During a standoff that stretched into Monday night, Lindsey shot all four children to death with a .380-caliber pistol he had stolen from his father, Orlando Police Chief John Mina said Wednesday.
Walter Benenati, an attorney for the children’s mother, Ciara Lopez, identified the victims on Wednesday as Irayan Pluth, 12; Lillia Pluth, 10; Aidan Lindsey, 6; and 22-month-old Dove Lindsey.
“The mother is just in complete shock,” Benenati told ABC News. “Right now she is angry and that will turn to grief that nobody can even fathom.”
He said he spoke to the mother Wednesday and quoted her saying, “I am heartbroken and feel completely alone.”
Officer Talmon Hall was with Valencia when he was shot and said Valencia’s “primary concern was for the well-being of those four children.”
“He wanted to be the first to bring the children out of the house and he wanted to be the first to apprehend the bad guy,” said Hall, sitting next to Meghan Valencia during the news conference.
Dr. Chad Smith, director of the intensive care unit at the Orlando Regional Medical Center, said Valencia is in critical condition.
“He’s in a coma. He does show some signs of responsiveness and he will have a long road ahead for recovery,” Smith said.
Meghan Valencia said if anyone can survive, it is her husband.
“He is fighting every second. And I need him to continue to keep fighting because …,” she said breaking into sobs.
“This man was everything to me. I’ve been telling stories to the squad about how he is my first love, literally. Kevin and I were each other’s first boyfriend and girlfriend when we were 12,” she said. “So, you can imagine that this person is literally everything to me. He blessed me with two amazing little boys and he was … he is the most amazing father ever.”
She said her nightmare began early Sunday morning when her husband’s colleagues knocked on her door and woke her up and “told me that my husband had been shot trying to save some kids.”
“I’m sorry for those families,” she said of the loved ones of the murdered children. “I’m a mom and I cannot even imagine what they’re going through. It is more than what anybody can bear.
“I know every officer wanted to get those children out. And believe me, when I say that each and every single one of them feels the weight of the world because they couldn’t.”
Surrounded by her husband’s colleagues and her family members, Meghan Valencia said her husband, who had been a member of the Orlando Police Department for two years, was always putting the lives of others over his own well-being.
She said once when her husband saw a car crash into a canal, he jumped into the water and saved people who were drowning.
“He didn’t care about his well being, he just had to get them out,” she said. “That was my husband. He did everything he possibly could to protect everybody. He was there for everyone.”
She said her husband has been her biggest booster, especially at times when she’s felt inadequate as a mother.
“When I would cry because I thought I was the worst mother in the world, he would tell me that I was the best and that every child would be lucky to have a mom like me,” she said, bursting into tears again.
She said that even when her husband was at work, he would call home to talk to their sons and “tell them that he was going to be home to play with them.”
“He has to come back,” she said. “I just asked that everybody prays for him because he needs it. He needs all the support that he can get so that he can pull through, so that he can wake up, so that he can live because my boys need their daddy and I need my husband, and this community needs a real hero.”
Chief Mina rejected critics who asked why the officers didn’t go into the apartment sooner to confront Lindsey, 35, and to try to save the children he was holding hostage.
“A hostage situation is one of the most dangerous situations that we deal with,” Mina said. “To do an entry in a situation like that, it really puts the hostages at risk. Our main concern was always those kids in there. So we didn’t want to do anything to provoke his actions to do harm to them. We had been communicating with him throughout the day.”
He said Lindsey was on community control, meaning he was supposed to be on supervised parole and under home confinement until the year 2045 after serving time for arson and domestic violence.
Asked if the criminal justice system let his officers and the children down, Mina said, “It is a shame that this person is not behind bars.”
“I don’t know why someone would get community control until the year 2045 and based on what I know, I think that person should have been behind bars,” Mina said.
The Florida Department of Corrections released a statement Wednesday saying the agency last visited Lindsey’s home on March 27 and did not observe any firearms.
“We are extremely heartbroken by the outcome of [this} incident involving this criminal,” state Corrections Secretary Julie Jones said in the statement. “Our deepest condolences go out to everyone affected by this tragedy, and the Department stands ready to assist local law enforcement in any way we can moving forward.”
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