Courtney Brown of Gulfport said it all happened very quickly.
“We were at the red light at Creosote Road and Three Rivers Road and we saw a police car go through the red light and then once the light turned green, a second police car stopped in the middle of the road and prevented us from going through, and that’s when the van hit him.”
Gulfport Police Chief Leonard Papania said Garcia’s patrol car was hit by a van reported as stolen driven by 18-year-old Eli Daniel Bosworth of Gulfport, who was arrested on a charge of felony fleeing and theft of a motor vehicle.
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Garcia was taken to a local hospital. Papania said he was in “serious but stable” condition Tuesday.
Brown posted a tribute to Garcia on her Facebook page that has been shared more than 1,500 times.
“The van crashed right into Garcia’s car and it almost knocked him into us,” Brown said. “But Officer Garcia put himself between us and the van and he saved our lives — that would have been us had he not stopped when the light turned green.”
Brown said she was traveling with her mother, boyfriend and almost 2-year-old daughter Monday evening. They were going to pick up her boyfriend’s truck when they were at the red light at Creosote and Three Rivers roads.
“Garcia saved my boyfriend and daughter’s lives,” she said. “There was no reason for him to have stopped other than to save us.”
Brown said she was a not a friend of Garcia’s, but she’s met him once.
“He’s pulled me over before,” she said.
Although Garcia is still hospitalized, Brown said she wants him to know how much her family appreciates his bravery.
“This was the bravest thing I’ve ever seen,” she said. “I’m eternally grateful for what he did for my family — he’s a true hero.”
The crash happened after police responded to a call regarding the theft of a white 2014 Chevrolet Express Van, Papania said. The van was spotted in the area of U.S. 49 and Crossroads Parkway around 6:30 p.m.
An officer attempted to stop the van, Papania said, but Bosworth turned south on Three Rivers Road and increased his speed. A second officer, Garcia, was driving through the intersection of Creosote Road and Three Rivers Road when the van hit his patrol car.
Bosworth was arrested on the charges of felony fleeing and theft of a motor vehicle. His bond was set at $150,000 by Judge Melvin Ray.
Papania said donations for the officer and his family will be organized at a later date.