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The wife of the Vietnam veteran who propped himself on an overpass high above major South Florida roadways with a noose dangling from his neck Monday morning said her husband never intended to kill himself.
"I'm like, 'No, it can't be,'" said Teresa Gutierrez when she first found out about the standoff involving Fredy Gutierrez, her 59-year-old husband.
The three-hour SWAT standoff that ensued between Fredy and authorities forced the Florida Highway Patrol to shut down the Florida Turnpike, Interstate 595 and State Road 84 at the Griffin Road exit, leaving hundreds of drivers stranded in traffic for hours.
Teresa said she had a feeling it might be her husband, so she called his cell phone. "Sure enough, he answered the phone and he said, 'Yeah, it's me; 595 and waiting to talk to someone,'" she said.
For three hours, police tried to talk to the war vet, trying to coax him down. A U.S. flag poked out of the barrel of a nearby rifle.
"He wanted to talk to someone, to tell them what his feelings were about him serving his country and coming back with post traumatic stress disorder and just being given the runaround," said Teresa.
She added that her husband is fighting to avoid being deported back to his native Colombia. "He's done everything in his power to find a way to stay here after serving his country and living here since he was 11 years old," said Teresa.
Fredy served seven years in the Army, performing a tour in Vietnam, according to Teresa, before receiving an honorable discharge in 1977. "Within himself, he knew he had issues," said Teresa. "I'm sure he had flashbacks like most of these guys that went over there, so he took it upon himself to go for counseling through VA."
With a criminal record that includes assault against a public servant in 2002, Fredy is facing deportation. Teresa said he was never a U.S. citizen. "You would just assume, if they go and let him fight for his country, that he was a citizen," she said.
SWAT officers finally talked the war vet off the edge of the Turnpike overpass. "If that was the only way he was going to be heard and taken seriously, then I'm behind him 110 percent," said Teresa.
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