34-year-old San Bernardino police officer retires 3 years after being shot in head

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. (KABC) -- It's not every day there's a retirement ceremony for someone who is 34-years old, but then again, it's not every day that the person retiring is a police officer who was shot in the head and survived.

"I've always said that I'm going to make it, always," said Officer Gabriel Garcia in the upstairs conference room at the San Bernardino Police Department. It was standing room only, as Garcia formally retired from the police department.

Police Chief Jarrod Burguan honored Garcia by handing him a plaque that contained all of the awards he'd earned in the department over the years. Burguan said Garcia would always be remembered for his positive attitude, as he recovered from traumatic injuries.

"Throughout this process, as difficult as it's been for your recovery, you always had a smile on your face, and I can tell you always had the best attitude in the world," Burguan said.

The shooting happened on Aug. 22, 2014. Garcia was on patrol as a training officer in his unit with another officer. They approached a group of people standing around a car and stopped to investigate. But without warning, one of the men opened fire, hitting Garcia in the head. Garcia's partner returned fire and killed the gunman.

The other three men who were with the gunman were all arrested. They were later convicted and sentenced to state prison.

Garcia's father, Ron Garcia, who was also in the San Bernardino Police Department, said his son has had more than a dozen surgeries. He called his son's recovery miraculous, but he said he knows his days of patrolling the streets of San Bernardino are over.

"He's accepted his physical limitations as a result of his on-duty injury. He's accepted his cognitive issues he'll fight the rest of his life, and he'll accept the fact that he'll never be a patrol officer again," said Ron Garcia.

Toward the end of the retirement ceremony, a dispatcher spoke over the police radio system, wishing him farewell.

"Officer Garcia, the men and women of the San Bernardino Police Department want to wish you good luck and a long and happy retirement," the dispatcher said.

The new retiree said he's going to work toward improving his health.

"I'm going to take my therapy, get stronger, bigger, better, and that's it for now," he said.

At the very end of the ceremony, Burguan spoke about the term "SB Strong" that became popular after the Dec. 2, 2015 mass shooting at the Inland Regional Center that killed 14 people and wounded 22 others. Burguan called the brave officer the city's first "SB Strong."

"You are always welcome here, you are always part of this family," Burguan said at the end of the ceremony.
Copyright © 2019 KABC-TV. All Rights Reserved.