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Hillsborough deputy who survived three bullets learned from wounded co-worker

TAMPA — She didn't feel the bullets that tore through her upper leg, lower leg and shoulder. But she was bleeding and her adrenaline was surging.

Hillsborough County sheriff's Deputy Lyonelle De Veaux knew what she had to do. Keep from going into shock. Think in precise, small steps. Let God handle whether she would live or die.

"Three Gulf 37," she radioed in. It was her call signal, and in minutes, it brought an ambulance.

From the stretcher, she spoke to her mother by phone.

"Mom, start praying," she said.

De Veaux, 35, made her first public appearance Thursday to talk about how she survived three gunshots last month.

She also thanked the community for overwhelming support.

A deputy for five years, De Veaux was responding to a routine domestic call outside a Carrollwood apartment complex Sept. 30 when a man fired at her about 10 times at close range. Former Marine Matthew Buendia, 24, remains jailed on charges of attempted first-degree murder and aggravated battery of a law enforcement officer, and two counts of domestic violence battery.

De Veaux spoke about a lesson she learned two years ago, when fellow squad member Deputy Miguel Galarza survived a bullet to the neck.

Stay as calm as possible. Try to think in clear sentences.

Asking for prayers felt familiar and comforting to De Veaux, who had often turned to her mother, and God, in times of stress.

On the other end of the phone, Martha De Veaux heard the commotion and sirens and knew her daughter had been shot. But the deputy seemed calm. The mother thought perhaps she had just been grazed.

"She was not crying or anything," said Martha De Veaux, an administrative assistant for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

Lyonelle De Veaux told her mother she was upset paramedics had cut up her clothes. She said they had sliced through the laces of the "cute" work boots she had just purchased.

De Veaux knew it was important to keep talking.

She told her sergeant she would be back at work in no time, maybe the following week.

He said no.

De Veaux had never been shot before. But she knew how to put her life in God's hands. She saw her father do it, with grace and peace, before Maurice E. De Veaux finally succumbed to lung cancer.

He inspired her to enter public service. A church leader, he had worked closely with Tampa police and the NAACP.

Lyonelle De Veaux, a psychology and music major, worked as a family counselor for the Department of Children and Families for six years. She saw violence against children and that led her to join the Sheriff's Office.

She strode into the news conference Thursday gingerly but confidently. She couldn't directly discuss the encounter with Buendia because of the pending criminal case against him. But she said she followed agency procedures that day. She noted that she will be more aware when she responds to calls in the future.

Doctors haven't told her how long rehabilitation could take. She still suffers some swelling.

She said she bears no anger.

"Once I get back on the streets, I can't take anger out on people," she said. "My parents didn't raise us to hold grudges."

Justin George can be reached at (813) 226-3368 or

Hillsborough deputy who survived three bullets learned from wounded co-worker 10/20/11 [Last modified: Friday, October 21, 2011 2:03pm]
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