A split second. That's all it took to alter Sergeant Mark Bustamante's life.
In December, the Pima County Sheriff's supervisor lost his eye during a traffic arrest of a woman suspected of drunk driving. Sgt. Bustamante speaks out about his injury for the first time since that traffic stop.
It was a reflection Sgt. Mark Bustamante saw on the window of a deputy's car that revealed how badly he was hurt. The reason he *had to cover his eye -- that night. "I saw a deformity to my eye that I wasn't used to," he said.
The eye is gone now -- replaced with a temporary plastic shell.
The 22-year veteran is now on light duty at the Pima County Sheriff's Department still as the Traffic investigator supervisor, who at times worked on DUI task forces -- as he did that night.
Sgt. Bustamante can not talk about the events that led up to the injury while the case is being investigated -- but KGUN9 obtained the Sheriff Department reports of what happened that night.
Records show at 11:45pm on December 9th. a DUI Task Force deputy saw Yesennia Gonzales speeding down Alvernon going "71 miles per hour in a 45 mile per hour zone making numerous unsafe lane changes while cutting off vehicles."
The deputy pulled Gonzales over and reported she not only appeared "drunk" her alcohol level was 2 1/2 times the legal limit. She was "antagonistic" and "resisted arrest."
Sgt. Bustamante showed up as backup. Both tried to "lift her up and put her in the backseat" of the deputy's S-U-V, but Gonzales started kicking. Pictures show she was wearing nearly 4 heels.
Bustamante reported he held onto her legs but at one point she stopped fighting him so he relaxed -- leaned down -- and then she suddenly kicked him in the face.
The other deputy reported he heard Bustamante "cry out in pain or agony." He said, "I felt the most excruciating pain I have ever felt in my life. I was still conscious. But I felt every moment of pain that kick produced."
Bustamante covered his left eye while he "grabbed her legs until he knew she was secured."
Deputies reported "there appeared to be a lot of blood coming from in between his fingers." They called for paramedics.
Cavazos: Did you think you were going to lose your eye?
Bustamante: The minute she kicked me I knew I lost my eye. Cavazos: It was that hard. The kick was that hard and that precise.
And Bustamante knew then it was a life-altering moment -and questions swirled through his mind. "How bad is my injury? What is my future? How am I going to provide for my family?" he said.
And he braced for what he had to tell his wife and children that night. "I had to reassure them I was fine. That I was not going to die and I am okay," he said.
Cavazos: How is your family coping now?
Bustamante: They're doing fine. They get a lot of compliments and a lot of questions regarding my health and my future.
Because Bustamante is in a supervisory role, he returned to continue his work, but with one change. "I am not making traffic stops. I'm not in uniform," he said.
He said he's not sure if the loss of an eye will prevent advancement in the department. Sheriff Mark Napier says this type of injury is less likely to be career changing, but it is life-altering and injuries to law enforcement officers happen more often than the public thinks. "It does happen and if the public is a little more aware of the dangers we face and it's not always the most dramatic thing that will make the media, but this is a daily occurrence," said Napier.
But Bustamante wants to remind the public that what happened during that traffic arrest could have been avoided. "We have a problem in the community and that is impaired driving and it is a 100 preventable crime. These incidents affect everybody in some way," said Bustamante.
Sgt. Bustamante says he's meeting with a doctor at the end of the month to begin the process of getting a prosthetic eye.