A father of three from suburban Aurora left for dead on the side of a road in Mexico after being ambushed on his way to spend the holiday break with family has made it back home.
Jose Luis Gutierrez, 52, said he was driving through the Mexican state of Zacatecas with his father and his youngest daughter when he decided to stop near a convenience store the night of Dec. 23.
“It was 9 p.m., and we know not to drive at night. So I stopped to sleep, thinking the area was safe because it was well lit,” Gutierrez told reporters at a news conference Thursday.
At around midnight, Gutierrez said he heard a knock on his car window.
“It was a young guy asking me for a ride to the next town over,” he said. “I said no, and that’s when things got rough.”
The man drew a gun, Gutierrez said, and told the 52-year-old landscaper to get out.
“He opened my car door and put the gun behind my ear,” he said.
Gutierrez was led to a parked car nearby with two men waiting inside. They sat Gutierrez in the front passenger seat. Another man drew a gun behind his head. After driving for a few hundred yards, the driver stopped the car and told him to get out.
“I didn’t want to —I was afraid they were going to shoot me,” Gutierrez said. “Then one of the guys said, ‘Kill him here if he doesn’t want to get out.’ But the driver said he didn’t want blood all over his car.”
That’s when Gutierrez said he reached for the gun behind his head and managed to knock it out of the assailant’s hands and onto the road. The driver stopped the car and Gutierrez threw himself out and onto the man looking for the gun.
Gutierrez then used the man as a human shield as the driver walked toward him.
“I just kept telling them to leave me alone,” Gutierrez said.
But soon after Gutierrez was shot in the abdomen and right leg. Another bullet grazed his left hip. The assailants drove off. Nine hours later, a car finally stopped and called an ambulance.
“Cars were whizzing next to me. I felt like I was going to get crushed,” he said.
Gutierrez was airlifted to a nearby hospital where his daughter and father were waiting. The assailants had taken their pickup truck and cell phones. The family filed a police report in Zacatecas. Authorities are investigating.
After being hospitalized for a week in Mexico, Gutierrez was taken to a hospital in Texas on Jan. 2. He stayed with family in Dallas to recover and took a bus to Chicago on Thursday.
“I was bleeding out on the side of the road. Now I’m back home. It feels good,” Gutierrez said.
“I want to go back to work as soon as possible,” he said. “I really don’t want to lay around the house for long.”
Carlos Ballesteros is a corps members of Report for America,a not-for-profit journalism program that aims to bolster Sun-Times coverage of Chicago’s South Side and West Side.