GOLDEN BEACH, Fla. – In February 2017, Police responded to a call of an armed man in Miami Shores. Multiple agencies responded, but it would be Golden Beach police officer Julio Soca who came face-to-face with the armed suspect.
“All I remember is seeing a muzzle flash coming from inside and I was able to throw myself against a wall that was there,” Soca said.
Inside of a small dark room, Soca and his K9 Tyson were dodging gunfire, he remembered.
The young officer was hit twice. It was a call that changed his life.
“I didn’t know if I was hit. I didn’t know if I was going to get out of there, but I said I’m going to push through,” Soca said.
Soca was rushed to the hospital. He believes it was the bulletproof vest that he was wearing that likely saved him.
The suspect eventually took his own life.
For Soca, his physical wounds will heal, but that night lingers in his mind.
He’s had many sleepless nights with the events of what happened that evening continually playing out.
While Soca lived to tell his story, many officers aren’t so lucky. 46 officers died feloniously in 2017 alone.
The FBI released data for officer deaths in 2021 marking a deadly year with 73 officer felonious deaths.
It’s a 58% increase compared to 2020 with 46 killed, and 48 killed in 2019.
Alex Piquero, the chair of criminology for the University of Miami says he believes the pandemic contributed to the recent increase in officers killed. He also thinks numbers will go back down based on past trends.
“My hope and my expectation as we start to see homicides go down again in the United States is that we will see killings of officers go back down again, but of course the killing of one officer is one too many,” Piquero said.
Today, Soca uses his experience as a lesson for other young officers. Life for him has changed since the shooting. He is now a father and Tyson retired, too. He’s the family’s dog.
“Now I feel more prepared. I went through a traumatic incident that I don’t wish upon nobody. But I learned a great lesson. I thank God I am here to tell the story,” Soca said.