MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – Miami Gardens police Officer David Starling made his first public appearance Wednesday after being shot while sitting in his police vehicle last month.
Starling was greeted by more than 50 students at Arcola Lake Elementary School, where he thanked them for writing him get well cards while he was recovering from a gunshot wound.
"This is awesome," Starling said. "This right here is what makes my job, all we do. This is what makes it important."
The second through fifth grade students are all part of the Embrace Girl Power! after-school program, where they learn how to be "healthy, confident and ambitious young ladies who strive for academic excellence and service before self."
"Why do you appreciate him so much? What does he do for you?" Local 10 News reporter Todd Tongen asked one of the students.
"He takes care of us, and he helps us when we are in danger," Denaja Proctor said.
"It was a wonderful opportunity for the girls to show their appreciation and compassion in real time," program site manager Sharon Alli said. "They really took great pride in what they wrote.”
Starling was shot Jan. 22 in the area of Northwest 183rd Street and Northwest Seventh Avenue.
Miami Gardens police Chief Antonio Brooklen said Starling was filling out a report when a black BMW sport utility vehicle passed by and the driver "backed up and ambushed the officer."
Starling was struck once in the buttocks, but he got on his police radio, called for backup and gave a description of the SUV, Brooklen said.
David Mejia, 24, of Aventura, was arrested on multiple charges, including attempted murder of a law enforcement officer, aggravated assault and aggravated battery with a deadly weapon.
He remains at the Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center without bond.
Starling told Tongen that he has not yet started physical therapy, so he is unsure about when he will be out of patrol, but said there is no doubt that he will eventually be back.